RARE SNOWFALL DELIGHTS CURRY RESIDENTS

January 30, 2002 12:00 am
Snow came down to the ocean's waves. ().
Snow came down to the ocean's waves. ().

By Susan Schell, staff writer

Brookings-Harbor residents awoke to a winter wonderland Monday morning.

As the snow level dipped below 500 feet, the white stuff made an appearance right up to the salt water tongue of the ocean.

Visitors to the seashore experienced the strange sensation of snow crunching beneath their feet, with beach sand and lapping waves just yards away. Piles of driftwood peeked out from the glowing crystal carpet, lending another dreamlike vision to the surreal landscape.

"We don't usually issue winter storm warnings for the coast," said Ryan Sandler, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Medford.

"But we had weather spotters that reported 2 to 2 1/2 inches of snow on the beach Monday morning," he said.

Sandler explained that during the month of January, an air mass builds up over Alaska and becomes very cold. A storm system blowing in from the north brought the arctic air down over the Pacific Ocean.

Sandler said the weather service was alerted to the low snow level by Oregon Department of Transportation road cameras. ?We weren?t surprised that there were snowflakes at sea level, we were just surprised that it stuck.?

Students got a special treat Monday when school was called off for the day. Streets rang out with the excited squeals of children as they beaned each other with snowballs and built snowmen.

Brookings-Harbor School District Superintendent Paul Prevenas said the decision to close school was based on the icy road conditions.

?I make a final decision based upon consultation with the transportation and building principals out in the field who have first-hand knowledge of the road conditions,? he said.

Prevenas said the safety of the school buses was one concern, but he took into consideration that, during the course of the school day, high school students are driving their own cars and some parents are also driving their kids to school.

Dan Nachel, owner of Dan?s Photo and Camera, said the snow created a boost in business. ?We?ve had lots of people come in with snow pictures.?

According to many long-time residents, Monday?s snow was the most significant amount in about 10 or 12 years. Anecdotal reports say the Brookings-Harbor area received about 2 inches of snow, while higher elevations such as Gardner Ridge Road and Carpenterville Road received more than 10 inches.

Snow was reported as far south as Humboldt County in California. In Del Norte County, more than a foot of snow covered the towns of Hiouchi and Gasquet.

Highway 199 between Crescent City and Hiouchi Bridge was closed Sunday after 2 p.m. because of slippery snow and ice buildup.

No major problems were reported on Highway 199 on Monday, but Caltrans warned motorists to be wary of icy conditions in areas of the road that remained shaded most of the day.

With Tuesday?s temperatures hovering in the upper 30 to mid-40s in Curry County, motorists were warned about potentially icy conditions on Highway 101 between Brookings and Port Orford.

The National Weather Service is predicting more rain arriving late today (Jan. 30) and continuing through Friday. However, temperatures are expected to rise, reducing the possibility for more snow.?It?s unusual for the air mass to come down this far,? Sandler said. ?There was an onshore flow, and the moist ocean air mixed with the very cold arctic air, produced snow showers. It melted when it first started, but it came down so hard and so cold, it started to stick.?