Snow expected to pile up on passes

Forecasters: valley will get rain, wind

Southern Oregon is bracing for a windy, wet and even snowy set of storm fronts that will dump significant rain on the Coast Range and drop as much as a foot of snow on Cascade mountain passes but largely spare Medford.

The front will start off slowly today but gain intensity throughout the day until it brings moderate to significant snowfall in the western Siskiyou Mountains and the Oregon Cascades above the 4,000-foot level into Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

"The snow will drop more significantly later in the day (today) as the cold air moves in," says Jim Bunker, a hydro-meteorological technician at the weather service's office at the Medford airport.

Interstate 5's Siskiyou Summit is forecast to get about an inch of snow today, then 3 to 4 inches more later tonight and Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

The service late Monday also predicted 2 inches today at Highway 140's summit near Lake of the Woods, and then an additional 5 to 6 inches by Wednesday morning.

The heaviest predicted snows on local mountain passes likely will be on Highway 138 across the Cascades, Bunker says.

Roads above 4,000 feet will start today with 3 to 4 inches of snow, followed up by as much as 8 extra inches by Wednesday morning, Bunker says.

I-5 motorists heading northbound should be spared any snow out of the Rogue Valley as the passes there are all about 2,000 feet above sea level and in what should be the rain zone, according to Bunker.

Oregon Department of Transportation crews planned to get a jump on the storm by pre-treating I-5's Siskiyou Summit with magnesium chloride, commonly called de-icer, ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming says.

They will tackle the snow as it comes today and tonight, Leaming says.

"We're still in winter, though we haven't had much for winter lately," Leaming says. "We're ready for it when it comes in."

While the Coast Range is too low for snow this go-around, it will receive its usual pounding of rain that was to start late Monday and should taper off today after 2 to 4 inches falls, Bunker says.

In Medford, however, it will be much ado about little.

Slightly less than one-third of an inch is forecast to puddle in Medford throughout the storm, but wind gusts could reach 20 mph, Bunker says.

Monday came and went in Medford as the proverbial calm before the storm. Light winds and some clear skies brought with them a high of 64 degrees in town, but well under the March 4 record of 74.7 degrees set here in 1934.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at

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