The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Weather Service: Snow not over yet


Jess Macinko

A MOVING EXPERIENCE: Ron Starkey, resident of Cottonwood RV Park, helps out with snow removal.

Now for some news no one wants to hear: our recent sunshine may be short-lived. Marilyn Lohmann of the National Weather Service Pendleton office says a return of below average temperatures and possible precipitation could be upon us by the weekend. Long-term, she expects our cold, heavy winter will segue to a cool, wet spring. Her advice? Get outside while the getting's good.

If it's any consolation, this winter has given us bragging rights. On Jan. 18, The Sentinel reported Goldendale had received a total of 42.2 inches, making 2016 – 17 the seventh snowiest year on record. We're now in third place with a total of 56.4. That's just about a foot shy of the all-time record: 68.3 in 1949 – 50.


Klickitat County Public Works Director Gordon Kelsey says the lull in precipitation is a "window of opportunity" to scrape more snow and ice from the roads, especially gravel roads. "That's where we expect to see the most trouble [when it warms]. We've been able to scrape paved roads down to the pavement, but not the gravel roads." Kelsey explains many gravel roads have been frozen so long that they get very soft when they start to thaw.

Another challenge is that drainage ditches are full of snow and ice, meaning rain and melt-water may have no place to go.

In some areas, there's not a lot of room between roads and fences. As more and more snow gets pushed off the road, there is a chance for fences and mailboxes to get pushed over or otherwise damaged. Kelsey says once the snow melts, "then we go out and make repairs."

As roads warm up and soften, Kelsey reminds residents to check the public works website for closures and load restrictions.


KPUD General Manager Jim Smith says in terms of outages, we've been "extremely lucky" this year. Apart from outages stemming from Bonneville issues, there have been relatively few instances.

But that could change. When it warms, melting snow and ice could fall from trees, damaging power lines. Smith hopes for rain, which causes snow to melt more gradually. It can also help disperse snow on the ground, which creates a further hurdle for KPUD. "[In some areas], we need excavators just to dig our way in to fix the equipment."

"I don't remember a winter like this in the 20 years I've been here."

The cost of cold

For David Latshaw, owner of the Cottonwood RV Park, this winter has been about as hard as it gets. He estimates it's taken a total of 40 – 50 hours of plowing to keep the park accessible. An average winter takes only eight to 10.

With heavy snowfall, warmer weather can pose its own set of problems. Cottonwood resident Ron Starkey remembers five feet of flooding in the winter of 1995-96.

Since the addition of a bridge and raised road, the park no longer has the flooding problems it once did. But Latshaw says the winter has still been difficult for small business owners like himself. He estimates the park has received $12,000 of power and water bills for the past month alone. At the same time, Latshaw is reluctant to pass the costs on to residents.

"[I] can't raise rents-no one has the money."


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