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MailTribune.com
  • How bad was it?

    Rogue Valley residents share their tales of surviving the first winter storm of the season
  • Editor's note: We asked readers to send us their most memorable moments since the freeze began on Dec. 6.
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  • Editor's note: We asked readers to send us their most memorable moments since the freeze began on Dec. 6.
    It all started last Friday afternoon, when a fire sprinkler pipe burst at Royal Oak Retirement and flooded the offices and resident manager apartment. Medford Fire-Rescue was first to respond, and its quick actions helped keep all 80 senior residents and 20 employees safe and dry. Next came Jim and Jeremy from Lamco Fire Sprinkler Systems, and within three hours, the pipes were repaired and fire alarm system reset. It was business as usual until Monday, when a sprinkler pipe burst again, along with multiple breaks in the domestic water lines. These breaks not only shut down the sprinkler system, but also the hot-water supply to the commercial kitchen and all 88 apartments. Residents remained calm while feasting on pizza served on paper plates and retired that night with hopes of a dry and warm tomorrow. Another local contractor, Kottke Plumbing, came to the rescue, staying late into the night to repair the broken water lines, and employees stayed vigilant on 24-hour fire watch until the sprinkler leaks were repaired Tuesday afternoon. The manager's apartment was a total loss, computer systems were drowned, but everyone was safe.
    Ceiling collapsed, but lucky! Lucky my hubby and I were both home and that it didn't fall on me. A water pipe broke in our guest-room ceiling. My husband, Loren, just got home from errands at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and at 4:30 I happened to walk to the linen closet at the end of our hallway and heard a waterfall. I looked in the guest room and saw water pouring down the entire window and wall. I ran outside to get Loren (who was in his shop), and I noticed water running outside the wall/window, as well. He shut off the water. As we were trying to catch the water coming from the ceiling with a bucket, it started coming through the light fixture, so he went out to turn off the power. He told me to hold the bucket. I decided it was a lost cause and tried to save the wrapped Christmas presents I had in that room. Just as I got the last one and was in the hallway, I heard a thud. The ceiling was down, the light fixture was dangling. I called 911 because I was worried about the electricity factor. The operator said the fire department should respond. Three of them came and helped clear up the room and cut the line to the ceiling power and capped it off. It would have really been a larger disaster if we weren't home to shut off the water and power. Could have been worse. The bed is unsalvageable, but I saved all of the gifts and most of the room accessories. Special thanks to city of Medford firefighters.
    On Friday I left work in Medford to head home to Ashland at the worst possible time, 3:30 p.m. I drove from Cobblestone Village to Court Street, where I encountered bumper-to-bumper traffic that was moving at glacial speed. Three hours later I was at Jackson Hot Springs on 99. There was an accident on the hill heading into Ashland and traffic was stopped. Apparently because my car had been going so slow for three hours the battery wasn't charging well and the electrical system began to fail. I pulled off 99 and parked and started walking the three-plus miles home. I called my son and husband to tell them what I was doing. My son was downtown with a friend so they started walking to meet me. We connected at Minute Market and had a delightful walk through town. My husband met me at the library and walked me the rest of the way. It was a wonderful adventure.
    We are unable to use the central-heating system in our singlewide mobile home because of rodent droppings and urine throughout the system. Thus, we are relying on electric space heaters. It's been so cold here on Bear Creek that in the morning there is ice on the inside of the windows (frozen condensation). If we win the lottery someday, we'll invest in a ductless heating system, but in the meantime I'm wearing several layers of thermal underwear as I write this.
    The recent cold snap led me to discover a new winter sport. It all began when my wife, Kathy, driving home just a little too late on Friday afternoon, got stuck in the ice on West Griffin Creek Road. That particular area is in a cellphone dead spot, so she couldn't call me. Fortunately, our neighbor Kristen was right behind her in a four-wheel-drive car, so Kristen went ahead and called me when she got back into cellphone range.
    I bundled up and hopped onto my trusty 1954 Ferguson tractor. It took me a good 15 minutes to reach Kathy's reported location. She was gone! Alas and alack, a friendly fellow had helped her chain up her car, and she made it out on her own. Rather than risk getting stuck again, she had headed back down to the valley to spend the night with a friend. By the time she got into cellphone range, I was on the tractor and out of cellphone contact.
    Not finding Kathy where she should have been, I kept going down West Griffin Creek Road, but I gave up and turned around. The road back up was easy at first. I used the tractor to pull one poor fellow out, but 50 yards later he got stuck again and this time my tractor wasn't enough to get him out. The road was so slippery that I fell down twice just walking to collect my chain. So I continued upward, the road getting steeper and more slippery. I drove partly in the ditch because the dirt surface wasn't icy and my big tractor tire grabbed the ground firmly. While the wheel in the ditch had solid traction, the wheel on the road surface would often slip. No problem: Tractors have separate lateral brakes. If the left wheel starts to spin, you just hit the left brake and all the power is transferred to the right wheel. Using this little trick, I chugged steadily upward.
    Unfortunately, when cars get stuck in icy conditions, they tend to slide into the ditch, which meant that I couldn't follow the ditch all the way up to the top: I had to switch sides every 50 yards or so. After a number of successful switches, I was gaining confidence, which, of course, was the necessary precondition for things to go terribly wrong. Halfway through one switch, in the middle of the road, my tractor lost all traction. Not just forward traction, but every kind of traction. I started sliding downhill, a particularly distressing development because I was sideways, which doesn't afford much in the way of control.
    Oddly, I felt no great alarm or panic — I'm either too old or too stupid for that. I played with the steering wheel and the brakes, satisfying myself that they could accomplish nothing. Unfortunately, it was growing dark and I had no lights on the tractor. Fortunately, there were no cars coming up the road. The tractor picked up speed; I think I hit a top speed of 10 mph. I recall speeding past a couple of fellows trying to get their car out of the ditch. Acutely aware of the ridiculousness of my situation, I waved and called out "See ya later!"
    After a good 70 yards the road became less steep, and I could feel twitches of traction. The tractor was drifting to the side of the road, which was good, because traction lay hidden beneath the uncompressed snow on the side. Twisting the wheel one way and the other, kicking at the brakes, I brought the tractor to a safe halt.
    The fellows from the car I had passed on my way down came running, slipping, sliding, falling. "Are you alright?" At first I was uncertain as to how to answer; I hadn't suffered a scratch but they had each taken several nasty spills racing to my rescue. "Sure, I'm fine! How about you?"
    And that is how I discovered Olympic Downhill Sideways Tractor Racing.
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