The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current, August 13, 2022, WEEKEND EDITION, Page 3, Image 3

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Saturday, auguSt 13, 2022
A local leader selected for Ukiah School
Ukiah School District appoints alumna and
longtime teacher, Laura Orr, as superintendent
The Observer
UKIAH — In the main lobby
of the Ukiah School building,
shadow boxes and picture frames
hold a century of memories from
past students. Decades-old let-
terman jackets share the wall with
years of class photos.
For Laura Orr, the new super-
intendent of Ukiah School Dis-
trict, the wall holds four gener-
ations of family memories, too.
The faces of her grandmother,
father and now her own children
greet her as she walks to her new
office each day.
Orr was born and raised in
Ukiah and completed her kin-
dergarten through senior year in
the storied white building. She
went on to receive her bachelor’s
degree from Eastern Oregon Uni-
versity and continued her educa-
tion in Utah, where she received
a master’s in science education at
Western Governors University.
Upon returning to her home-
town to teach, Orr joined a staff
comprised of her former teachers.
“That was weird, but it
wasn’t weird for very long,” she
For more than 18 years, Orr
taught science classes for grades
five through 12 in Ukiah. As of
July 1, she transitioned once more
into a new role at Ukiah School
The Ukiah School Board
deliberated between local candi-
dates and candidates from out-
side the region, but ultimately
appointed Orr for the position of
“Laura will be a great fit for
the position as she possesses the
drive, ambition and adaptability
that Ukiah School District needs
to be successful in the future,”
said Wendt Eddy in a July 20
InterMountain Education Service
District press release.
School Connectivity
For Orr, one of the district’s
most pressing challenges — and
first orders of business — is
internet connectivity.
“Modern education requires
connectivity,” she said.
Due to the region’s lacking
infrastructure, the school’s
internet is often spotty. This
makes online learning and testing
particularly hard. Orr noted all of
Ukiah’s high school students are
planning to take at least one online
dual credit class this coming year.
With funding support from
IMESD, Ukiah School will
receive a dedicated fiber internet
line within a year — a multi-mil-
lion dollar project the district
would never be able to afford on
its own.
“It’s going to make maintaining
a modern education for our stu-
dents possible,” she said.
At the moment, nine educators
and support staff — including Orr
— keep the school running.
“Everybody knows what’s
going on and helps take part in
things,” She said. “It’s full support
Laura Orr/Contributed Photo
Laura Orr, the new district superintendent for the Ukiah School District, stands in
front of Ukiah School on Friday, July 29, 2022.
all the way around.”
Orr said she hopes new state
incentive programs will help pro-
vide districts with what they need
to encourage and support talented,
local educators to teach in their
very own communities.
Despite the unique challenges
the district is facing, Orr contends
that simply supporting students in
their endeavors is the easiest part.
“With good teachers and good
materials and good connectivity
and intentional support to help
them, they’ll go as far as they
wanna go,” she said.
Teaching and community
Orr is a local and regional sci-
ence education advocate and a
member of several boards, out-
reach programs and research
projects around the country. She
also encourages students to get
involved in scientific research of
their own.
Orr has been an active member
of NITARP, the Teacher Archive
Research Program organized by
NASA and Caltech’s Infrared
Processing and Analysis Center.
This program partners educators
with a professional astronomer
for a year-long original research
“Through it, you learn better
techniques and skills to take back
to students,” she said.
For several years, Orr selected
a few interested students from
Ukiah to work with her on the
research and present at national
conferences. To Orr, this program
gives students confidence that
they, too, can make strides in sci-
entific research.
“You don’t have to be a special
smart kid from a big school with
a fancy research department,” she
said. “You could be just an inter-
ested kiddo from Eastern Oregon
that just really thinks baby stars
are cool.”
Outside of school, Orr is active
in the Ukiah community as one of
the directors of the Ukiah Rodeo,
leader of the town’s 4-H clubs and
a coordinator of the local NITARP
astronomy research.
As she takes on the role of
superintendent this fall, Orr will
wear many hats. She will also
serve as principal of the school
and will still teach two science
classes every day.
Orr sees the unique chal-
lenges of rural education as oppor-
tunities, rather than liabilities.
According to her, the many years
she’s spent at Ukiah school — as
a student and a teacher — give
her extra understanding, drive and
energy to make it the best it can
“The community itself would
not be the same without us,” she
said. “We need to honor that tra-
dition and culture and grow it and
support it.”
Storm leaves trail of damage, injuries in Wallowa
‘Tennis-ball sized’
hail damages
homes, sends
‘multiple’ people to
LA GRANDE — A thunderstorm passing over Union County dropped large
hailstones between 3-4 p.m. on Thursday, July 11.
Hailstones up to 1.5 inches in diameter were reported in La Grande,
according to the National Weather Service office, Pendleton.
The thunderstorm dropping the hail formed southwest of La Grande and
then began moving northeast, said Rob Brooks, a meteorologist with the
National Weather Service office in Pendleton. Wind gusts as high as 60
miles per hour were reported during the thunderstorm at the La Grande/
Union County Airport.
Wallowa County Chieftain
Eien said he remembers
feeling a sense of deja vu
Thursday, Aug. 11, in the
aftermath of the severe
weather storm that rolled
through Wallowa County.
“It looked like how
people were walking around
after 9/11 — in a daze,” he
said. “That’s exactly what it
The Enterprise resident,
who has family who live in
Wallowa, where much of
the damage from large hail
was centered, was touring
the county to look at the
damage in the aftermath of
the storm.
“We were driving
around, checking on all of
the people we knew,” he
said, “making sure they
were OK.”
Earlier in the day, the
National Weather Service
in Pendleton issued a severe
thunderstorm warning for
much of Wallowa County
until 5 p.m. Aug. 11. The
warning included 2-inch-
— The Observer
Nicole Bellows/Contributed Photo
This photo, submitted by Nicole Bellows, of Lostine, shows unique storm clouds rolling through Wallowa
County on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. “I had never seen anything like it. My husband is from Kansas and
his remark was, ‘If I was in Kansas I would say it’s a tornado. It was moving fast and headed northeast,’”
Bellows said.
sized hail and winds up
to 50 mph. Camden Plun-
kett, a meteorologist for
the weather service, said
there were reports of base-
ball-sized hail in the county.
“For the hail that was
received in Wallowa County,
we are leaning toward ten-
nis-ball sized hail up to
2½ inches,” he said. “We
did also have some reports
of ping pong ball-sized
hail about 1.5 inches in La
Grande as well.”
Plunkett said his office
did hear about multiple inju-
ries as a result of the hail,
something Eien said he’s
heard while he was in Wal-
lowa as well.
“We are hoping everyone
is all right,” he said, adding
the county also received
“frequent lightning strikes.”
Staff at Wallowa Memo-
rial Hospital, Enterprise,
confirmed the hospital
treated “multiple” patients
for injuries from the hail-
stones. Staff also reported
how unusual this was, with
one commenting she has
lived in Eastern Oregon
more than 40 years and this
was a first for her.
Eien said around 4 p.m.
the power went out in Enter-
prise and about the same
time, his wife received a
text from her parents in
“We lost everything,” he
recalled the text saying. “We
immediately got in the car.
We didn’t know what that
Eien said as they reached
Wallowa, the damage sharp-
ened into focus — cars
with shattered windshields,
downed trees and homes
with severe damage.
“There was a tree that
hit a house, some trees in
front of the high school went
over,” he said. “Telephone
lines, power lines went
According to the Pacific
Power website, 887 cus-
tomers were without power
following the storm. The
outage was first reported
shortly before 4 p.m.
Power also is out to about
13 customers in the Minam
area. The outage was also
reported shortly before
4 p.m.
As of 8:45 a.m. Aug. 12,
the Pacific Power outage
map shows power remains
out and is expected to be
restored before 10:30 a.m. in
both locations.
Power was out in
other parts of the county,
according to Pacific Power’s
Twitter feed.
More than 5,300 cus-
tomers in Enterprise and
Wallowa were without
power late in the afternoon.
The cause of the outage
was severe storm damage,
according to the utility’s
Twitter feed. Power was
restored in Enterprise and
Joseph before 8 p.m. on
Plunkett said the storm
was a perfect chain of events
to cause the large hailstones.
“We had really strong
updrafts and then we had
really strong wind shear
that allowed an organized
supercell thunderstorm to
develop,” he said.
The storm took about
90 minutes to pass through
the county, Plunkett said,
and once it crossed into
Idaho, the storm weakened
Plunkett said the
expected 50 mph wind
gusts did not materialize.
There were reports of 60
mph gusts at the La Grande/
Union County Airport.
“We did not have any
confirmed wind gusts in
Wallowa County,” he said.
Severe weather is not
expected in the county over
the next several days, but
Wallowa County could see
some isolated thunderstorms
in the afternoon on Aug. 12.
Plunkett also said there
is not a lot of data available
on supercells in Wallowa
County. The last recorded
event was a tornado with
a rating of EF2 that hit
June 11, 1968. EF means
“enhanced Fujita scale,” and
a 2 on the scale means gusts
of three seconds of 111-135
mph. The Western Regional
Climate Center, he said,
reports that tornado came
with golf-ball sized hail.
Ontario National Guard tankers Wolf killing spurs $11.5k reward
mobilize for Kuwait deployment
The Oregonian
The Observer
Oregon Army National
Guard’s 3rd Battalion,
116th Cavalry Regiment
held a mobilization cer-
emony for 16 citizen sol-
diers deploying to Kuwait
on Sunday, Aug. 7, at the
Ontario National Guard
The citizen soldiers
will augment the 2nd Bat-
talion, 116th Cavalry Reg-
iment from the Idaho
National Guard for a one-
year deployment. The 16 are
assigned to the same com-
pany and will leave soon for
Fort Bliss, Texas, located
near El Paso.
“The training is not com-
plete,” Staff Sgt. James
Hawley said, “and there is
still more to do. We’ll be at
Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas,
for two months and then to
Kuwait, where we will fall
Maj. W. Chris Clyne/U.S. Army National Guard
Maj. Gen. Michael E. Stencel, right, the Oregon National Guard
adjutant general, shakes hands with deploying members of the 3rd
Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment after a mobilization ceremony
in Ontario on Aug. 7, 2022.
in on our tanks.”
While in Kuwait, the
deploying group will be part
of Operation Spartan Shield,
a joint mission under the
U.S. Central Command, and
part of Operation Enduring
Freedom. OSS focuses on
providing theater security,
all while strengthening and
building defense partner
relationships in Southwest
The deploying cit-
izen soldiers are all tank
crew members, led by
1st Lt. Matthew Booher
and Hawley, have been in
training to prepare for this
Oregon State Police Fish
& Wildlife Division is
looking for the person or
people who fatally shot
a collared wolf in North-
eastern Oregon last week,
and conservation groups
have offered a $11,500
reward to anyone whose
tip leads to an arrest or
A 2-year-old female
wolf known as OR-112,
part of the Keating Pack,
was found Friday near
an embankment in the
forest seven miles north
of Halfway, Oregon.
Troopers believe she was
shot the day before.
The Oregon Wildlife
Coalition and its partners
have offered the award.
Another 2-year-old wolf
was found dead in Eastern
Oregon in January after it
was hit by a car. Officials
Oregon State Police/Contributed Photo
The Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division is seeking the public’s
assistance in locating the individuals responsible for shooting and
killing a wolf — OR-112 — in the Pine Creek Wildlife Management
originally believed she had
died of a gunshot wound.
In 2021, the state’s
annual animal count
showed a small increase in
the wolf population, with
the minimum number of
wolves increasing from
170 to 172. At least 26
wolves died in the state
last year, up from 10 the
previous year, according
to the report.
Humans were respon-
sible for 21 of those
Police ask anyone with
information to contact
OSP through the Turn in
Poachers (TIP) hotline at
1-800-452-7888 or *OSP
(*677), or email TIP@osp. and reference
case number SP22201971.