It is hoped that by now everyone has power. This piece in no way wishes to make light of people who suffered losses, and are still dealing with the aftermath from last week’s snow storm. I have heard many stories of destroyed vehicles and trees on roofs. From what I can gather, there was about two feet that fell in Cottage Grove. It was a wet and heavy snow, which is what caused so much damage to trees and, consequently, those of us on the ground.
While it seemed massive to us, not used to a few inches of snow here and there, it wasn’t one for the record books. That belongs to the “Big Snow” year of 1969. Ironic that it was just one month past the 50th anniversary of that massive dump, which left well over three feet of snow piled up by 70 continuous hours of snow fall.
When the snow began to fall on Friday evening Jan. 24, 1969, nobody was too worried. While there had been some record years, the average snowfall for the area during the last 38 years was 5.4 inches. On Saturday, children were having a ball: making snowmen and otherwise enjoying a winter wonderland as the snow continued to fall. By Sunday, two feet of snow had accumulated and many Churches failed to have services for the first time since their founding.
Still the snow continued to fall on Monday, and by Tuesday over three feet of snow covered the town of Cottage Grove. To make matters worse, the temperature dropped to around zero, insuring the snow would be around for a while. Transportation by car was a no-go and autos were abandoned in the snow.
Four wheel drive trucks, police, skis and horses were employed to get people to work at key jobs. Schools were closed, as well as the mills and logging operations. Those operations offered men and equipment to help the city clear the streets. The sound of rumbling Cats could be heard around town, pushing up the snow and loading it into dump trucks headed to the river.
The heavy weight of the snow on flat roofs sent many crashing to the ground, such as the old Chambers Mill on 99, which saw its massive roof collapse piecemeal. Radio Station KNND managed to stay on the air and directed emergency messages to those who rallied to help out the community with a true pioneer spirit.
A shovel brigade went from one flat roof to another. In fact, the 2019 Cottage Grove Area Calendar put out by the Sentinel has a photo of the volunteers shoveling off the Roof of the “Lucky – U” store as its January illustration.
Four wheel drive trucks plowed through the snow on missions of mercy delivering food, fuel and medicine to those left stranded by the snow. Helicopters and aircraft dropped feed to sheep, cattle and wildlife trapped by the snow. Farmers particularly were hard hit with losses of livestock, barns, crops and orchards. By early February, the snow melted off and the rains returned, but left in its wake a community damaged but united in a spirit of helping one’s neighbor.
This storm closed out a decade that had seen three of the biggest weather disasters in Oregon’s history: The Columbus Day Storm, Oct. 12, 1962 (also known as the Big Blow); The Christmas Flood, Dec. 24 through Jan. 7 (that not only swept away houses but our Swinging Bridge); and lastly the Big Snowstorm of 1969.
While we are licking our wounds from our latest bout with Mother Nature, let us remember the suffering from those by gone days and count our blessings. Here is a wish for everyone to get relief and repairs from last week’s snow, and thank you to all who helped out someone in need!
Contact Dana Merryday: 541-942-7037; [email protected]