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Slip-slidin' on snow

Highway 140 takes the brunt of the storm; more snow showers in the forecast through Sunday

For about three hours Thursday afternoon, Highway 140 resembled a billiard table as several cars and semitrucks collided and were sent sliding off the road.

Wintry weather forced Oregon State Police to close the road between mileposts 27 and 29 from noon until — p.m. as troopers worked to clear out a logjam of crashed cars, OSP Capt. Kurt Barthel said.

There were innumerable accidents up there, Barthel said. But we had to wave many of them on because there were too many to investigate.

Barthel described most of the crashes as minor fender-benders that resulted in no reported injuries.

Snow showers varied throughout the valley during Thursday's storm, falling lightly in Medford but in feather-size flakes in Rogue River.

— National Weather Service forecasters are calling for more of the same through Sunday, when there will be a decrease in snow showers across the Rogue Valley. Meteorologists are calling for partly cloudy skies Sunday with highs in the upper-40s to low-50s.

Slippery conditions on Highway 140 victimized OSP patrol cars as well. Barthel said some troopers had to have their cars towed from ditches after sliding off the road.

One trooper, who has worked here 23 years, said it was so slick it was the first time he has fallen on the road, Barthel said.

The problems were compounded by Highway 140's slight inclines around curves and its many hills. Once cars were forced to break for upcoming crashes, they simply slid off the highway, Barthel said.

Troopers had to park their cars far ahead of crash sites near milepost 26 and walk back to help stranded motorists. At one point, they were pushing cars around by hand to get them going in the right direction, Barthel said.

Once we got the cars out of the way and traffic cleared, (Oregon Department of Transportation) plows came through and things started flowing very well, Barthel said.

ODOT reported the highway at Lake of the Woods had received nine inches of new snow and there was a chain restriction on towing vehicles and those with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more.

Other highways throughout Jackson County, though hit hard by snow and ice, saw fewer problems, Barthel said.

We didn't have any problems on Highway 62, he added. Interstate 5 through the Siskiyous, which is usually a problem, was well-plowed by ODOT crews.

ODOT plows buzzed along Rogue Valley roads trying to keep apace of the snow.

Chain restrictions were placed on all vehicles over the Siskiyou Pass Wednesday night. early Thursday, only semitrucks were required to install chains, said ODOT District Manager John Vial.

One problem area was Highway 230 near Diamond Lake, which was hit with more than two feet of snow Thursday, causing ODOT crews to run continuously to keep the road clear, Vial said.

The Ashland ski road was a challenge, too, because the wind was blowing so hard up there, Vial added.

Vial said ODOT crews are eager to see the latest winter assault disappear. Snow has pulled them from fixing damage done to the Siskiyou Summit's drainage system during the Dec. 31 flood. Surging water and debris ripped up the series of pipes and inlets that help keep the summit passable during the winter months.

Every time we go to fix the damage, we get called off to go plow snow, he said. We have had above-average snowfall this year. It's not a record by any means, but it's been a good winter. Here it is the second week of March and this is the first time we've had snow across (Josephine and Jackson) counties. And spring's just around the corner ' at least we hope.

Slip-slidin? on snow"cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Heavy snow fell Thursday on the roughly 20-mile high-elevation stretch of Highway 140 between Medford and Klamath Falls. The highway was closed for three hours around lunchtime when stuck vehicles began piling up. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell