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Temperatures expected to drop 20 degrees

Hopefully you soaked up the last few days of Rogue Valley warmth, because it's going to be taking a vacation the rest of this week.

The National Weather Service reported a "potent" cold front was expected to push through Southern Oregon Monday night into Tuesday morning, and high temperatures that have been in the high 60s to low 80s the last few days are expected to plunge into the mid 50s to low 60s through Friday.

"(Monday) is basically our warmest temperature for the next week for sure," said meteorologist Marc Spilde.

Warm temperatures have ruled since Thursday, March 26, when an 80-degree high in Medford tied the all-time record set in 1923. Friday, Saturday and Sunday temperatures hit 77, 67 and 75 respectively, with a high in the 70s Monday.

The cold air mass is expected to cover a wide area, including Jackson, Josephine and Curry counties. Weather officials are calling for scattered showers Tuesday and Wednesday. The air may be cold enough for pockets of small hail to fall around the Rogue Valley and other areas west of the Cascades. 

"There may even be some thunder with some of the showers that are there," Spilde said. 

Snow levels may dip down as low as 3,000 feet Tuesday night, though only light accumulations are expected. Freezes are possible for parts of the Shasta Valley in Northern California, but the Rogue Valley will likely be spared from frost until Friday because of warmth-holding cloud cover.

Friday morning is expected to be the coldest of the week for Jackson County, with the low temperature forecast at 32 degrees, and some areas are expected to dip down to about 30.

"That day would be the day of the biggest concern around the Rogue Valley for folks growing things," Spilde said.

Rhianna Simes, Master Gardener coordinator at Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center, said preparing crops for the cold is important anytime overnight low temperatures dip below 40. Plants raised in greenhouses and planted after purchase are especially sensitive to cooler temperatures.

"Anything in the 30s is kind of that range, especially for tender young plants," Simes said. "It depends on the variety a little bit."

Vegetables more sensitive to the cold include tomatoes, eggplant, some lettuces and basil. Easily chilled flowers include begonias, marigolds, cosmos and fuchsia.

Home gardeners should cover planting beds or pots with sheets, blankets or sheets of plastic, propped up by supports such as chopsticks, Simes said. Straw, mulch and plastic milk jugs can also be used as protection. For sensitive trees, including peach and almond, Simes recommended decorating for Christmas early by stringing up some LED lights that can bolster warmth for buds.

"Those put off a little bit of heat but are safe," Simes said. 

Showers are possible Saturday and Sunday, with high temperatures expected in the upper 50s to low 60s.

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