Wind topples big forest trees, creates danger

High winds in the mountains could make camping, hiking and hunting dangerous this afternoon and evening. High wind gusts estimated at 50 to 60 mph toppled trees this morning around Prospect and Crater Lake National Park.

"We want to get the message out to stay out of the back country until the high winds subside," said Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

She said forest roads 34 and 37 are blocked by downed trees and Forest Service crews have teamed up with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department search and rescue workers to patrol the back roads and remove downed trees.

Sheriff Mike Winters said a search and rescue base camp has been established near Prospect and teams are driving through the forest to check on hunters and campers and clear roads.

No injuries have been reported, and there's no word yet on property damage at campgrounds, Burel said.

Chuck Glaser at the National Weather Service office in Medford said that strong east winds kicked up at about 6 a.m. today. Winds were worst at elevations higher than 4,000 feet.

Crater Lake rangers reported several large old trees near the park's residential area blew down and about two dozen mature hemlock trees, some as large as four feet in diameter, had snapped or been uprooted in the Castle Creek drainage southwest of the park along Highway 62, Glaser said.

Damage was spread along the Cascade Crest north into Douglas County, he said.

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement this morning warning 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. The statement noted that the high winds were caused by a high pressure system over northeast Oregon and a low pressure system off shore.

Travelers and those camping or hiking in the Cascades today should use caution due to small trees or large tree limbs being blown down by the strong and gusty winds, the statement said.

Winds at Crater Lake have diminished this afternoon and should decrease across the rest of region by this evening, Glaser said.

— Anita Burke

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