Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter's grip

For Central Oregon newcomers, the first six weeks of 2011 belied the belief that we have tough winters here.

Old-timers, those here longer than 20 years, knew better.

Sure enough, on Feb. 15, we were socked with a heavy snowfall, that broke tree branches and closed schools all over the region. (In the photo, behind the squirrel, we lost a huge juniper branch, with the resulting space allowing us to peer into our neighbor's back yard.)

And, as I write this entry 10 days later, my computer says it's 13 degrees outside at 1:30 p.m. I know it's warmer than that, because our indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer says it's actually 16 degrees.

The forecasters say it could get down to minus 2 degrees tonight. That's nothing, though. In December 2009, it got down to 17 degrees below zero.

With such nasty weather, you wouldn't think that Deschutes County (home to Bend, Redmond, Sisters and La Pine) would be the fastest growing county in the state this past decade.

But, it's true.

The 2010 Census shows that Deschutes grew by 37 percent. Redmond nearly doubled in size with a 94 percent growth rate. Bend just increased by 47 percent to 76,639 residents. Sisters more than doubled in size, but that's only from 959 to 2,038.

With that ridiculous growth rate, overbuilding became the norm as infrastructure decayed.

Now, we have empty, foreclosed homes throughout Central Oregon and no way to pay for desperately needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades.

But, snowfall is the great equalizer. It covers potholes in the streets, and makes abandoned homes look as fine as those well-kept mansions in the gated communities.

It appears that winter is here for awhile. At least skiers and snowboarders are rejoicing.

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