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Swift waters ease up

A lot of wet weather leaves behind a mess; most roadways reopen

Classical Greek poet Pindar once said, Water is the best of all things.

Apparently, he never spent a wet December night on Interstate 5 clearing boulders the size of SUVs alongside Oregon Department of Transportation crews.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, all lanes of the freeway over the Siskiyous were open to traffic. The interstate had been closed by mudslides in a flash flood Friday morning south of Ashland; northbound lanes had been cleared by that afternoon, but ODOT crews worked through the night trying to clear the southbound lanes for holiday motorists, ODOT District Manager John Vial said.

It took some effort and some real work to get things out of the way, Vial said. But now everything's open and passable.

Holiday traffic was briefly backed up for about seven miles down the freeway early Saturday as people tried to cross the pass at the Siskiyou Summit, Vial said.

— Vial's main concern is the damage sustained by the summit's drainage system. Surging water and debris ripped up the series of pipes and inlets that help keep the summit passable during the winter months, Vial said.

It's going to take a great amount of work to repair and rebuild the system, he said. I expect the price to start at &

36;1 million and it'll only get more expensive from there.

Elsewhere in the Rogue Valley, the Jackson County sheriff's search and rescue team airlifted a stranded elderly couple from an isolated cabin near the 15600 block of East Evans Creek Road in Rogue River.

The cabin was cut off from any access roads after water from Evans Creek washed over a bridge, making it unpassable, officials said in a news release.

The daughter of Curt and Nancy Warren contacted the sheriff's department at around 10 a.m., saying the Warrens had no lights or heat and had run out of food. She also said that Curt Warren, 70, had fused discs in his back and knee injuries that made it difficult for him to walk.

Rescue crews could not access the cabin by boat because of turbulent water and debris. A helicopter was dispatched to the area despite heavy rain and foggy conditions. The Warrens were evacuated safely, officials said.

Oregon State Police troopers prowled highways, making sure New Year's Eve remained a safe one for motorists. No major accidents had occurred on Jackson County roads as of Saturday evening, OSP Capt. Kurt Barthel said.

I think people are driving responsibly because things got so out-of-hand earlier, Barthel said.

Snow began falling on the Siskiyou Summit late Saturday, prompting OSP troopers to enforce chain requirements on all vehicles heading over the pass, Barthel said.

Other parts of Oregon continued to feel the effects of Friday's storm. A mudslide kept a section of Highway 101 near Port Orford closed late Saturday, Barthel said.

Flood advisories continued to be in effect for a small number of rivers throughout the state. Among them was the South Umpqua River in Roseburg, which jumped its banks and caused minor flooding near the town, according to the National Weather Service, and for the Rogue River at Agness, which continued to surge well above flood stage Saturday night.

Swift waters ease up"cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Bradley Horton of Eagle Point searches for collectibles along the receding banks of Little Butte Creek Saturday after high water inundated the newly constructed Harnish Wayside. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli