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Last week's storm was one for the books

Last week's heavy rain that toppled trees and flooded parts of Ashland is now a bronze medal finalist for the most rainfall the city has recorded over a two-day period.

The National Weather Service calculated that 3.93 inches of rain fell on Ashland from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Saturday. It's the third highest two-day total since 1892. Medford received 1.04 inches at the airport during the same period, meteorologists said.

The highest two-day rainfall totals ever recorded — 4 inches Dec. 30-31, 1996, and 4.8 inches Dec. 21-22, 1964 — prompted historic flooding in Ashland and the surrounding area.

The Rogue Valley's lack of substantial snowpack this year kept last week's storm from unleashing another historic flood, weather officials said.

"We think it (the snowpack) had a lot do with it," said meteorologist Ryan Sandler. "Basically there was almost no contribution from snow. If you get a large snowpack melting, that can add the equivalent of a couple inches of rain."

Last week's rain also was not as widespread as in 1964 and 1996, when severe flooding was reported throughout the Rogue Valley. The Feb. 5-7 storm unleashed most of its fury in the southern portions of the valley.

If there had been snowpack and widespread rain, another round of notable flooding would have been likely, weather officials said.

"It would have been a historic-type storm for some areas," Sandler said.

The Feb. 5-7 storm did its share of damage, however, with 55 mph wind gusts uprooting trees in rain-soaked soil and pushing them over onto roadways and houses. Toppled power lines cut electricity to 1,465 Jackson County residents, including several neighborhoods in the Oak Knoll area and along Highway 66. Flooding was reported in Bear and Ashland creeks, and a mudslide closed Highway 66 between mileposts 1 and 14 for nearly three hours Friday.

About 200,000 gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater were released into Ashland Creek during the storm, as the city's wastewater treatment plant exceeded its daily 8.8 million gallon capacity. On Friday, wastewater churned into the plant in excess of 10 million gallons. Ashland Creek empties into Bear Creek.

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