Feb. 23, 2011 – While most residents of the major Oregon cities like Portland and the state capitol, Salem, thought they had once again escaped the wrath of Mother Nature and avoided a big snow storm this season, it looks as though Mother Nature didn’t want to leave Oregon residents out while the rest of the country got all the fun. While the forecast amount varies by which weatherman you turn to, KATU News says it is looking as though the average expected snowfall for Portland and the Willamette Valley of Oregon will be 1 – 4″ tonight and another 1 – 3″ tomorrow, depending on where in Oregon you are located.
While I know to most residents of the Midwest and Eastern states of the US may be reading this and saying “So what,” that amount of snow has the potential for bringing most of Oregon to a standstill. Schools are already preparing residents to be watching for closures, the road crews are on high alert, and there is a mad dash to the local grocery stores to stock up on supplies.
As someone who grew up in the Midwest, I must admit I find the utter panic the word “snow” brings to most residents of the lower lying areas in Oregon. When I first moved to this area and would tell my friends back home in Chicago that they had closed schools for the day because we had a little over an inch of snow, they would laugh. I must admit, I used to do the same. However, after living here a few years, I realized why a simple inch of snow can cause such panic, closure of schools, and traffic accidents here in Oregon. The lower elevations of Oregon just don’t get enough snow on a regular basis to be comfortable with it.
For example, those of you living in the Midwest or Eastern states grow up with snow. Every winter you are almost guaranteed a few inches. You learn to drive in snow. I remember going to snow covered, empty parking lots as a new driver and learning to control a car on the snow and ice. This is common practice for residents of most other states, however, not for those in Oregon.
Take last year for example, here in Albany, Oregon; just south of the state capitol of Salem, we didn’t have any snow last winter. There were a few flakes that fell in the sky one afternoon and looked pretty, but nothing that accumulated. I meet people who have never really driven in the snow. So you can only imagine what that lack of experience can bring to the roads when just an inch of snow covers the ground. Residents in Oregon don’t know how to drive in the snow, not because they are necessarily bad drivers, but because they have little to no experience with the fluffy white stuff.
So, while all you Midwesterners and Easterners catch your national news over the next few days and catch a glimpse of what the “Major Snow Event” may be doing to the residents of Oregon, just think back to the days, as a teenager, when you were first learning how to drive in the snow, and then imagine your entire state is filled with nothing but teenage drivers. Welcome to an Oregon Snow Day.