Here in Oregon, for the most part, we are truly blessed as far as weather goes. Our summers are generally mild and our winters are not too cold. I have seen summers where we did not even get 95Â° temperatures and winters that never reached 32Â°.
However, the winter of 1969 was a different story. It all started just afternoon when a warm front moved in over Oregon only to be met by a cold front coming down from Canada, creating a massive snow storm. I was working that day driving lumber carrier and the snow kept piling up deeper and deeper. By quitting time at five oâ€™clock, driving on the highway was next to impossible. The night watchman that was scheduled to come at five called the office and said there was no way he was coming to work. The boss then asked me if I would stay and be the night watchman. I guess he thought I would be the likely one to work as I lived just five blocks from the mill. What could I say? With much sliding and slipping around I managed to make it to all the clock punch stations. At midnight when I was to be relieved no one came, so I was stuck on the job until 8:00 the next morning. I managed to stick it out without falling to sleep.
I was concerned about how things were going at home but I did not need to be. When I did get home I saw that my son Don had taking care of things. We had a flat roof carport then and Don had shoveled the snow off of it during the night. During the middle of the next morning Don and I had to shovel it off again. I am sure if Don had not cleared the roof of snow, I would have found a caved in carport on my arrival home. Sometime during the afternoon, we decided to measure the depth of the snow in the back yard. With the aid of a yard stick, we found that it was 35 inches deep if I remember right; we were off work for ten or twelve days.
On a slightly different note, we also had a lot of floods during the winter. Situated as Junction City is, between the Long Tom river and the Willamette river and the valley being flat, it was a natural place for high water when we got a lot of rain. Being young kids at the time, we thoroughly enjoyed the floods as we were let out of school and had all day to play in the water. We built rafts and floated all around and enjoyed going around town and seeing all the water. These floods stopped when Fern Ridge dam was built on the Long Tom and the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers and their tributaries were dammed.
We have had years when we had lots of rain together with freezing temperatures which resulted in silver thaws. A silver thaw occurs when the ground level is below freezing and then it rains and the rain all turns to ice, making for treachures driving. My folks had a weeping willow tree in their yard which was really pretty with all the ice laden branches. However, that was not a good time for the electric power people as it caused them a lot of extra work repairing downed lines.
All in all, I am very glad to call the Willamette Valley my home.
Â By Carl Nielsen
Â Written Dec. 2008
I was researching info on the winter of ’69–the year my wife and I first visited Oregon. We drove into the state, as Ohioans, not expecting this huge winter storm. But, in spite of warnings on the radio, we “knew” how to drive in snow and headed toward Portland. We came to check out the state, possibly for jobs or a future vacation. We couldn’t get any further north than Salem (people were shocked that we made it that far, as most roads were closed). We stayed two days and pushed onto Portland, in spite of terrible road conditions. But, we wanted to see this city we had heard so much about. People were kind, delightful and helpful along the route. Even walking the streets of Portland, we found a community spirit we had never seen before. We slipped and slid back home after a week and that next summer moved to Portland. We’ve been here for the past 40 years, raised our kids and become better people because of the move. Your article brought back all those memories.