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Winter Storm ‘Orion’ brings unprecedented snowfall to Eugene,Ore.

Winter Storm 'Orion dumps' unprecedented snowfall on Eugene, Lane County.
Winter Storm 'Orion dumps' unprecedented snowfall on Eugene, Lane County.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Eugene, Lane County and the Willamette Valley is experiencing unprecedented snowfall for the second time in three months. Temperatures in the low 20s brought 3-7 inches of snow to Eugene and Springfield Thursday morning and has continued to fall through Friday afternoon.

According to the Weather Channel: Winter storm “Orion” will bring upwards of 12 inches overnight; transitioning into lighter snows and freezing rain Saturday.

You can read the extended forecast here.

In the wake of a Thursday morning Interstate 5 multiple car accident, we take a look at the dangers of driving over snow and ice, and a few precautionary measures.

Here’s where it gets tricky for most Western Oregon inhabitants. Driving in the white stuff is a new experience for many Eugene residents. ODOT recommends that you stay off the road during icy rain and snowstorms. For those who must venture out, I respectfully recommend the following precautionary measures.

1. Wait for the county snow plow to clear and gravel your road.

2. Install chains or studded tires on drive wheels.

3. Carry ballast for added traction.

4. Avoid over braking when driving downhill.

5. Avoid heavy braking and quick lane changes when approaching a stop sign or light.

6. Double the ‘follow’ distance between yourself and traffic.

7. If car loses traction while braking, release the brake and turn( gently) into the slide.

A “first hand” personal account.

Oh, and did I mention? Stay off the road unless you must, without reservation, make the journey into town.

Thursday morning I decided to make a last ditch effort of journeying into Eugene for DMV business and supplies. I just happen to live on one of the steepest hills in West Eugene.

While I’m used to driving in harsh winter weather conditions, snow remains a bit mysterious to me as to traction limitations. Driving down the hill on lightly compacted snow proved to be less than problematic. However, the Lane County snow plow hadn't made it out to Crow Basin and was nowhere in sight.

As of 10 am. Thursday morning, Spencer Creek Rd. and the Loraine Highway remained snowbound. West 11th Ave. was not much better as an unusually light morning traffic headed east into downtown Eugene. With snowfall activity increasing as we approached the noon hour, it became obvious that the decision to head into town was not a wise one.

And here’s “The rest of the story.”

Driving west and then south on Bertelsen Rd. visibility was reduced to zero as the intensity of the snowfall met windshield wipers in need of replacement. Approaching the approach to my assigned destination, it became immediately apparent that the front wheel drive Volvo, while being more than adequate in light snow driving is not equipped for a steep uphill on a yet to be plowed county road. In short, I found myself walking no less than a half mile uphill with groceries in hand. While I do enjoy a country walk in the snow, I don’t advise the exercise for those that are as ill prepared as I was to do so.

Vented running shoe’s don’t cut it in 27 F. snow and freezing rain. The Volvo remains parked on a neighbor's driveway. And two days into the storm we've yet to see a county roads department snow plow.

Now, “Back to the news.”

Western Oregon can expect Saturday’s weather to transition into freezing rain and then partial Sun by Sunday afternoon. On a positive note, the current weather system is bringing rains to Northern California; much needed after several months of unprecedented, historical drought conditions. While as much as 8 inches of rain is predicted for the region, the Weather Channel insures us that additional rainfall will be required to return California to ‘normal’ rainfall totals for the 2013-2014 rain season.

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