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Nothing changes but the weather.

Byline: Bob Welch The Register-Guard

YACHATS - At 6:05 a.m. Monday I was, with stocking cap on, doing the dishes at our family's cabin while watching the snow flutter to the beach beyond. The digital thermometer said 31 degrees. Ice had turned our porch railing into what looked like a freezer that needed defrosting.

It was amazing. Incredible. Nearly unprecedented.

I almost never do dishes that early while wearing a stocking cap.

OK, excuse the sardonic start, but that's what snow days do to you. They make you lighthearted and flippant.

And today's column is a snow-day column.

My original plan was a 6:30 a.m. Monday departure for Eugene after a week of "furloughing" and book writing. But Sunday night, as temperatures dropped below freezing and an occasional blast of snow sailed sideways, I realized that was crazy.

My editor OK'd an alternative: write about Yachats and the snow on Monday morning, return in the afternoon after temperatures have risen.

Which is why, over hot chocolate, I was listening to Barbara Shepherd, owner of the Village Bean Coffee Shop, talk about the woman whose car she'd just seen slide down a hill like a bar of soap on an A-frame roof.

"She slid into a ditch and couldn't get out so just rode the ditch down to the highway," Shepherd says.

In 57 years of coming to the beach, this is the first time I'd seen snow actually coat the ground. Early Monday, Highway 101 needed only a sleigh to look like that Jerry's Home Improvement Christmas commercial.

The rocks between the Oregon Coast Trail and the surf were sprinkled in white, like powdered sugar on the brown wagon wheel cookies my mom used to make. And the sliver of beach above the high-tide mark was begging for cross-country ski tracks.

"When I looked out this morning I thought I was back in New England," says Judith MacDonald, owner of Judith's Kitchen Tools and a former Rhode Island resident.

Some perspective: This was not the Great Snow of '69 and Ya chatsians are not the Donner Party. People weren't looting the C&K Market for Dura-Flame logs nor jousting for snow shovels and tire chains at the Yachats Mercantile, which, by the way, doesn't carry either.

"The funny thing is, what sells are blow dryers and curling irons," new owner Wyatt Feichtner says.

So, no, Yachats is not some urban jungle where people worry about how the snow will affect their commute. "Mine was the same, 90 seconds - and that's only because there was traffic," deadpans MacDonald, who lives across Highway 101 from her shops.

Same with Madelyn Elliott, who runs the 76 station next to the Village Bean; she lives in the house with the peace symbol on the roof. It's a snowball's-throw away.

Yachats is one of those wag more, bark less places that doesn't let a storm - even one with the rarity of snow - fluster it.

When it snows, Yachats isn't suddenly full of guys in jacked-up 4x4s who think they can drive in snow even though they can't. Sure, there was the guy parking his Nissan Pathfinder at the C&K Market who seemed a tad eager to tell an acquaintance he'd "used my four-wheel drive."

But Yachats in the snow is like Yachats not in the snow: mellow.

"There's no reason to hurry in Yachats," Feichtner says.

Even if you somehow wanted to create an ice-caused traffic jam in Yachats - say, for a scene in whatever movie the town might film after its hit "Ghoul from the Tidal Pool" - it would be impossible. There aren't enough cars.

Besides, people prefer to walk, which is what volunteer librarian Gretchen Armstrong was doing: braving the wind and cold from her home in Quiet Waters to rescue two geraniums that nearly froze.

By noon, Fire Chief Frankie Petrick's team - well, her and one guy - had responded to a noninjury accident near Cape Perpetua and a guy up river who had slid into a ditch.

"Nothing like '69," Petrick says. "Foot to 16 inches right down to the surf. Closed 101. Guy at the Adobe was giving rooms for half price since he had a captive audience."

So, no, Yachats wasn't about to let a little snow throw off its laid-back rhythm - even if its people, like other Oregonians, subtly love the drama that blows in with bad weather.

"I heard there's another Arctic storm coming in," says MacDonald with anticipation.

And the "60 to 70 mph" wind gusts forecast by the National Weather Service - well, they were talking it up like they might reach 100 mph over at Mari's Gently Used Books.

Not that anyone was panicking.

Bob Welch is at 541-338-2354 and
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Title Annotation:Local News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 17, 2012
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