It was white all right

By Jayson Jacoby December 26, 2012 12:11 pm

By Jayson Jacoby

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Nature delivered its gift to Baker County on time, and with unusual generosity.

Although some travelers might have considered the county’s bountiful Christmas Day snowfall a white elephant, one they’d happily exchange for something useful.

A Chia pet, maybe.

White Christmases hereabouts are almost as common as Bing Crosby on the radio, to be sure.

But the storm that swept across the county on Christmas was rather more robust than is typical for the holiday.

How much more robust, exactly, is not a matter that lends itself to precise measurement.

The National Weather Service replaced the human weather observers stationed at the Baker City Airport with automated machines about a decade ago.

And the machines, unlike the people, don’t go out each morning with a ruler in hand to plunge into the new snow.

That means data for snowfall on Christmas — or any day, for that matter — are not complete.

But the available records from the airport, which date to 1943, show that the biggest Christmas Day snowfall was 3.3 inches, in 1949.

The runner up is Christmas 1996, with a daily snow total of 2.5 inches.

This year’s holiday storm didn’t quite reach the 4-inch threshold the Baker City Public Works Department uses to determine when to start widespread plowing, said Tom Fisk, the city’s street supervisor.

But the Christmas snow did prompt the city to assign an employee to head out after dark to spread sand and salt on hilly streets and at busy intersections, Fisk said.

The holiday celebration was interrupted as well for another city crew that was called out about 9 p.m. on Christmas to repair a broken water main on Court Street near Brooklyn School, said Larry McBroom, water supervisor.

The cast-iron 4-inch-diameter line is of a sort that’s prone to breakage during cold weather,
McBroom said.

“We have a few of these almost every year,” he said.

Fortunately, crews were able to keep water flowing to all nearby homes while they made repairs.

“The guys got a little wet, but that’s part of their job,” McBroom said.

They finished the repair about midnight.