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Heavy rain, high winds flood roads, topple trees

Road and maintenance crews will earn the chance today to dig out, clear out but not dry out from Friday's storm that washed out roads, downed trees and swelled urban creeks.

More than 2 inches of rain fell in Ashland and more than an inch fell in Medford Friday, but only a quarter of those totals and much less wind is expected today as the second of three storms forecast for the region moves in. Ashland's winds will ebb to 20 mph and Medford's will wind down to 15 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

"We'll be chasing water, we'll be chasing trees and cleaning up all weekend," said spokesman Gary Leaming from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which grappled Friday with mudslides and creek overflows that closed a 13-mile stretch of Highway 66 deep into the afternoon.

While tonight might bring a halt to the rain, another front will move into the coast Sunday evening and inland Monday to bring more of the same, weather service meteorologist Fredric Bunnag said.

A combination of water, mud and high winds conspired Friday to cut Greensprings residents off from the valley. A raging Emigrant Creek jumped its banks at the Highway 66 bridge and flooded the roadway there near milepost 1, while ODOT crews faced a mudslide that cloaked both highway lanes near milepost 14.

Also, several downed trees blocked Hyatt-Prairie Road between Highway 66 and Dead Indian Memorial Road, isolating Greensprings residents until Highway 66 reopened at about 3:20 p.m., said John Vial, Jackson County's roads and parks manager.

Tyler Creek Road was closed after a failed culvert there caused the road to wash out near milepost 3, and high water covered the road at its intersection with Buckhorn Springs Road, leaving both impassable most of Friday.

Wagner Creek Road was closed at milepost 4 because winds toppled trees over power lines, and the road will open when Pacific Power crews can fix the lines, Vial said.

The volume of runoff in the city of Ashland late Monday morning began to tax the city's stormwater system with clogged drains flooding streets.

Ashland Fire & Rescue activated its Citizens Emergency Response Team shortly after noon to begin creating sandbags in anticipation of growing water problems.

"We'll get these sandbags out for people to use if they need them," Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman said. "We just want to be ready."

There was plenty to get ready for.

Ashland had Friday rainfall totals ranging from 1.75 inches to 2.24 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The Buckhorn Springs gauge hit 2.64 inches, accounting for why that area southeast of Ashland erupted with water problems Friday.

But what was forecast to be rain on Mount Ashland turned out to be snow, giving hope to skiers and snowboarders locked off the mountain for close to two months due to a dearth of snow.

"Mother Nature erred on our side for a change," ski area Manager Hiram Towle said.

While Medford saw its Friday rainfall levels hit 1.19 inches, there were very few problems in Oregon's first city designated as "storm-ready" by the Weather Service.

The only street flooding occurred around Lewis and Eighth streets, where water volumes were simply too much to handle for Elk Creek, a small Bear Creek tributary.

"Elk Creek's grade is just too flat to move a lot of water," Medford Public Works Director Cory Crebbin said.

Neighbors were busy laying out sandbags around a flooded house on Beverly Way in Jacksonville, and there were initial reports of a mudslide in the Savage Creek Road area near Rogue River.

Conditions were progressively worse toward the west, near Cave Junction. The rain gauge at O'Brien measured 5.4 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, and ODOT crews scrambled to address water spilling onto highways.

High water closed two of the four lanes of Highway 199 at the Sauers Flat area, a low-point east of Cave Junction.

Water also was crossing Highway 238 between mileposts 20 and 23 near the town of Applegate.

Brookings saw its rainfall levels hit 4.59 inches, but it and other coastal towns saw less rain than earlier forecast.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.