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High winds, floods possible from incoming storms

A series of storms headed toward southwest Oregon could bring damaging winds and a chance of flooding, reported the National Weather Service, which has issued advisories for the wind and rain.

A wind advisory is in effect through 10 p.m. today for Ashland. It warns of southeast winds of 25 to 30 mph, gusting to 40 mph.

Even stronger winds are expected Thursday evening through Friday afternoon in the surrounding mountains. A high-wind watch issued for the Cascades, Siskiyous, Crater Lake, Diamond Lake and Howard Prairie warns that southwest winds could reach 50 mph, with gusts of 85 mph, making it difficult for motorists, especially those in high-profile vehicles, to navigate. Fallen tree limbs also could pepper mountain thoroughfares, further hindering travel.

A flood watch will be in effect Thursday evening through Saturday afternoon for portions of southwest Oregon, including the coast and Josephine County. Between 5 and 10 inches of rain could fall there, forecasters say.

The National Weather Service office in Medford reported heavy rain west of the Cascades could lead to flooding, landslides and debris flows in poor drainage areas. Meteorologists said areas with burn scars in western Siskiyou County along Highway 96 will be the most susceptible to flash flooding and mud slides. Motorists driving on highways 138, 199, 101 and 42 also could be at risk.

Officials at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries said landslides can travel more than a mile with ease and can transport a variety of large debris, including logs and boulders. Areas along the bottoms of canyons, stream channels or at the base of steep hillsides are at the greatest risk. 

Rainfall could reach nearly 2 inches in Medford by 4 a.m. Saturday, with more than 3 inches expected for Crater Lake and Sexton Summit. Wind gusts could reach 35 mph in Medford, with 64 mph gusts predicted for Crater Lake.

Forecasters said that heavy rains across the region will cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly, potentially causing flooding in Jackson, Josephine, Douglas and Klamath counties. The National Weather Service said it would issue additional watches and warnings if the situation worsens.

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