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Rain, snow is on the way

After more than two weeks of dry, downright balmy weather, two weather systems are headed our way that promise to deliver back-to-back doses of snow to Southern Oregon mountains and rain to the Rogue Valley.

A system moving in from the northwest will bring cooler temperatures, valley rain and mountain snow today and Friday. Travelers can expect winter driving conditions up and down Interstate 5 and across the Cascades, as well, weather forecasters warn.

"Probably all the major passes will be affected," said Michelle Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford.

Snow levels are expected to remain above 5,000 feet today and then drop to 4,000 to 4,500 feet by early Friday morning, with accumulations at the higher pass levels, including the Siskiyou Summit on I-5.

After a brief respite Saturday, a second weather front will collide with cold air out of the northeast, causing more rain and snow at even lower elevations.

If you have travel plans for today or tomorrow, be prepared for wintry travel conditions this afternoon, the weather service said.

Accumulations are anticipated to reach 1 to 3 inches on the Siskiyou Summit; 2 to 4 inches at Lake of the Woods on Highway 140; 3 to 6 inches on highways 62, 138 and 230 in the Crater Lake and Diamond Lake areas; and 1 to 3 inches on Highway 97, north of Chiloquin. To the west, however, Highway 199 should see little more than rain.

"We've got a low-pressure system approaching our area from the northwest, off of British Columbia," Cohen said. "The moisture gets wrapped in front of it, causing lifting."

Mount Ashland, Grizzly Peak and Wagner Butte are expected to get fresh toppings, but that shouldn't be the case for Roxy Ann.

"There is a small chance snow levels could be a little lower because of evaporative cooling," Cohen said.

There's also a slight chance of a thunderstorm to liven things up late Friday afternoon or evening, she said.

 After clearing Saturday afternoon, the second system is due to hit Sunday night, bringing more snow to the region Monday.

Snow levels could drop to 3,000 feet before clearing on Tuesday.

Cohen said accumulation projections for that front weren't yet available.

Although the 2.68 inches of rain that has already fallen in Medford during February exceeds the normal 2.01-inch mark, it pales compared to the 4.55 inches recorded last year. The last measurable precipitation of .08 inches fell Feb. 9.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.