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MailTribune.com
  • Hazardous conditions

    Winter storm snarls southbound I-5 traffic for most of the day
  • It wasn't on par with a Mayan apocalypse, but a winter storm packing snow, ice and rain brought chaos to Southern Oregon on Friday.
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  • It wasn't on par with a Mayan apocalypse, but a winter storm packing snow, ice and rain brought chaos to Southern Oregon on Friday.
    The driving conditions in the higher elevations were a nightmare, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming said.
    "We are advising that you avoid travel until further notice," Leaming said. "It's just not a good idea to be out on the roads."
    ODOT began turning southbound traffic around at Exit 14 on Friday so truckers and other travelers were forced to use services in the Rogue Valley. The Expo in Central Point was opened to stranded truckers to wait out the storm, Leaming said.
    "We have had quite a few truck drivers stay at the fairgrounds," Leaming said.
    ODOT plows worked the freeway late into the night; however, their progress was slowed by semitrailers blocking on- and off-ramps along the road.
    California highway officials struggled once again to keep the freeway clear Friday. The California Department of Transportation asked ODOT to keep traffic to a minimum going over the Siskiyou Summit as conditions just over the border were hazardous.
    "Motorists should be prepared for severe weather in Northern California," ODOT said in a news release late Friday night.
    The closing of the freeway's southbound lanes caused huge traffic backups in the afternoon as cars and semitrailers jostled for position to take the Ashland exits.
    Stranded motorists quickly filled up Ashland's hotels and motels, said Hayley Cronin, who works at the Ashland Super 8.
    "We are filled to capacity and the phones have been ringing off the hook," Cronin said. "I've spoken to other motels near our exit and they are all filling up."
    The freeway finally was opened to traffic at around 8 p.m. However, a strict chain requirement was in place, ODOT said in a news release. At 10:43 p.m. Friday night, ODOT removed the chain requirement.
    For the second day in a row, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department reported numerous crashes and spinouts on county roads. No serious injuries were reported.
    The Mt. Ashland Ski Area reopened Friday morning after receiving 29 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours. The snowfall brought its total at the top of the mountain to 99 inches.
    National Weather Service officials say 13 inches of new snow will fall on the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges by early today.
    This means more rain and possibly snow for the Rogue Valley through the weekend. A trace of snow accumulation is possible in and around Medford, with up to 2 inches for elevations above 1,500 feet.
    The snow is expected to taper off in Jackson County as we move into the weekend. However, the rain will continue to fall, which could lead to flooding conditions, the weather service reported.
    Highs are expected to hover in the low 40s through Sunday, with lows remaining just above freezing at night.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or by email at cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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