Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Hurricane force winds Friday afternoon toppled a semi truck and trailer on Interstate 84, prompting the closure of the freeway through Northeastern Oregon for about three hours.

Gusts also overturned a shack at the top of the chairlift at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, forcing the ski area to postpone its planned season opening on Saturday.

The problem at Anthony Lakes wasn’t the shack itself, but rather that the electrical system that runs the chairlift is connected to the shack and wires were severed, said Peter Johnson, the resort’s general manager.

That’s the reason the ski area had to cancel its scheduled season opening on Saturday.

Anthony Lakes is slated to open for the season this Saturday, Dec. 22. It will be open daily through Jan. 6, except for Christmas Day. The lifts will close at 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Johnson said resort workers were at the top of the lift Friday afternoon, finishing preparations for the planned opening the next day, when a wind gust toppled the shack.

“Luckily no one was around the shack,” he said. “But they saw it happen.”

A weather station near the top of the lift recorded a peak gust of 61 mph on Friday afternoon, with several other gusts topping 50 mph.

Johnson said the shack, which has been in place for at least 25 years, has withstood winds of similar strength in the past.

“It was more about the direction,” he said. “We don’t normally get winds out of the southeast.”

The overturned shack slid about 25 feet. On Sunday Johnson and another employee used sno-cats to move the shack back into position.

Johnson said Ian Warner, Anthony Lakes’ operations manager, worked most of the day rewiring the electronic connections to the chairlift.

“He did a great job and we’re in great shape now,” Johnson said. “It would have been a great Saturday opening, but it looks like we’re going to get more snow this week.”

The winds didn’t cause any other damage, Johnson said.

In some places the gusts actually helped by consolidating the snow. Wind did scour snow off one section but new snow later in the weekend covered that area, Johnson said.

Freeway closure

Oregon Department of Transportation workers estimated winds gusted to 90 mph along sections of Interstate 84 between Pendleton and La Grande.

Wind overturned a semi-truck and trailer combination near Milepost 223, near the top of Cabbage Hill about 13 miles east of Pendleton.

A second truck was blown over Sunday afternoon in the same area.

ODOT initially closed the freeway between Pendleton and La Grande around noon, later extending the closure to the westbound lanes between Baker City and La Grande after truck parking areas became filled in La Grande.

The freeway re-opened about 3:25 p.m. Friday after winds subsided.

The source of the winds was a strong low-pressure system moving inland off the Pacific Ocean. The winds blew from the southeast because air moves from areas of higher pressure to areas of lower pressure, and the air pressure was much lower under the storm.

The terrain of Northeastern Oregon can exacerbate the effect, and thus strengthen the wind, by channeling air through canyons. That’s why areas such as Ladd Canyon, between Baker City and La Grande, tend to be especially windy.

The anemometer near the Charles Reynolds rest area at the northern base of Ladd Canyon measured a peak gust of 53 mph on Friday afternoon.

The La Grande/Union County Airport recorded a top gust of 59 mph.

Winds were comparatively gentle in Baker Valley Friday afternoon, with a peak gust at the Baker City Airport of 31 mph.