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Snow in the valley

A downpour of rain that soaked Southern Oregon overnight turned to snow Sunday morning, dropping close to 10 inches of white flakes in parts of Ashland and nearly 3 feet in some spots higher up. 

It's the first snowfall seen on the valley floor in almost two years, National Weather Service officials said. The deluge of precipitation caused highway closures because of accidents and knocked out power for a reported 25,000 southwestern Oregon residences. 

The snow nixed a much-anticipated opening for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area, which also suffered a power outage. The ski area's website said officials hope to open the mountain Monday.

Southern Oregon University canceled all Monday classes at its Ashland and Medford campuses. Ashland School District will close all its schools Monday, according to the district's website. Butte Falls Charter School will have a two-hour delay, according to the school's Facebook page. 

Power outages affected 25,000 customers across three counties by Sunday afternoon, with Pacific Power officials saying affected customers "need to prepare for their electricity to be out until Monday evening." Company officials said it was all hands on deck to repair the outages, which affected a wide swath of territory that included Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties. Crews took rides in Sno-Cats to reach some areas.

"Everyone who wears a uniform has been called out," said Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt. "It's a major incident." 

Sporadic power outages were also reported in Medford, with traffic lights sputtering out near the Medford Center and on parts of East Main Street. 

Flooding hit the Lazy Acres RV Park in Gold Hill. Park manager Holly Lopez said the overflowing Rogue River covered the park's horseshoe pits, picnic area and public beach area.

"That's all underwater," Lopez said Sunday, adding that six RVs facing the river also had to be moved. 

Fire officials from Medford Fire-Rescue, Jackson County Fire District 5 and Ashland Fire & Rescue said a majority of Sunday morning was spent responding to downed power lines. No structure fires were reported overnight.

"We're doing pretty good," Medford Fire-Rescue battalion chief Erin Sawall said. "Nothing out of the ordinary for a weather event."

Between 5:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, there were 39 emergency calls related to power line problems in Jackson and Josephine counties, according to Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon dispatch logs. There were also 19 reported vehicle crashes during that same time frame. 

At least one carload of snowbound motorists tried to make the most of skidding off the Greensprings Highway, according to resident Gordon Brown. While they waited for a tow, Brown said the group passed the time by building a large snowman in the middle of the field where their vehicle had come to rest after sliding off the road near the Old Highway 99 turnoff. 

"They're out in the field just building this huge snowman," Brown said. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation mandated chains for vehicles traveling on the Siskiyou Summit, excepting those with 4-wheel drive. Motorists traveling in area passes north of Grants Pass between mileposts 66 and 80 are required to put chains on vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds, ODOT said. 

Highways 62, 230, and 138 were closed in the Diamond Lake area Sunday because of blizzard conditions that toppled trees and limited visibility, ODOT said. It is not known when those highways will reopen. Part of Highway 138 near Glide also has been closed 12 miles east of Glide because of a landslide. Interstate 5's northbound lanes closed temporarily about 10 miles south of Canyonville because of multiple commercial truck crashes in the Canyon Mountain Pass, ODOT officials said. The lanes reopened after about an hourlong closure. 

"There are just multiple crashes through the district and region," said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. "One of the big problems right now is southern Jackson County around Ashland with snow falling continuously."

By early Sunday afternoon, close to 10 inches of snow was reported in Ashland, with anywhere from 4 to almost 7 inches reported in various spots around Medford. Butte Falls also saw about 4 inches. A foot of snow dropped on Howard Prairie, with 9 inches reported at Fish Lake. Weather officials said a whopping 31 inches fell on Diamond Lake, while 16 inches fell on Mt. Ashland during the same time frame, according to the mountain website. 

"It really varied quite a bit," said meteorologist Mike Petrucelli. 

More of the same is expected into later Monday morning. The Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning until that time, saying snow could fall as low as 1,000 feet.

"The bulk of the accumulating snow will fall above 1,500 feet, but rain may even mix with and change to snow for a while in the Rogue, Umpqua and Illinois valleys," the notice reads. 

New snow amounts of up to 6 inches are expected above 1,500 feet, with up to 2 inches expected between 1,000 and 1,500 feet. This could mean additional accumulation on roads and poor visibility. 

—Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.



Fresh snow covers a vineyard at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Lexie Clark, 11, left, and Madisyn Pinkerton, 11, both of Medford, prepare for a crash landing while sledding at Bethel Church in East Medford. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch