Screaming wind downs forest trees

High winds toppled trees in the mountains around Prospect and Crater Lake National Park Friday morning, closing forest roads and even Highway 62 for a short time.

East winds, estimated at 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 50 and 60 mph, kicked up about 6 a.m. around Prospect, said Chuck Glaser, data acquisition manager at the National Weather Service office in Medford.

The winds buffeted the back country and were fiercest above 4,000 feet in elevation. They scoured the region along the Cascade Crest and north into Douglas County.

Forest Service crews and Jackson County Sheriff's Department search and rescue workers teamed up to patrol the back roads and remove downed trees to reopen roads leading to and from campgrounds. They also checked on hunters and campers, but no injuries were reported, Sheriff Mike Winters said.

Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said forest roads 34 and 37 were blocked. Crews also were sent to look for damage to structures at campgrounds, but no update was available Friday afternoon.

At Beckie's Cafe and the Trophy Room in Prospect, customers and employees were talking about reports of a crushed fifth-wheel trailer and a damaged horse trailer, but few confirmed details were available.

Dave Grimes, a ranger at the Crater Lake National Park visitors center, said a falling tree had struck a car driving to the park from Klamath Falls. No one was hurt, but the rental car "had a dent on top," he said.

Park rangers also reported several large, old trees near the park's residential area blew down, as well as groups of trees in more remote areas of the park. About two dozen mature hemlock trees, ranging in size from 18 inches to four feet in diameter, had snapped or been uprooted in the Castle Creek drainage southwest of the park along Highway 62.

Grimes said Oregon Department of Transportation crews cleared the highway and park crews removed trees from roads in the park.

Around 11:30 a.m. Friday, the weather service issued a special weather statement, warning campers, hikers, hunters and travelers of strong, gusty winds and falling trees.

The statement warned of 25 to 35 mph winds with gusts of 50 mph in the Cascades around Crater Lake, Diamond Lake, Crescent Lake, Union Creek and in the Siskiyous at the Siskiyou Summit and Howard Prairie. It noted that the winds were caused by a high-pressure system over northeast Oregon and a low pressure system off the Oregon coast.

Winds at Crater Lake diminished Friday afternoon and were expected to decrease across the rest of region through Friday evening, Glaser said. Forecasts call for light winds through the weekend.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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