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More thunderstorms expected

The National Weather Service says that Southern Oregon will likely receive a second round of stormy weather, following a severe thunderstorm Tuesday night that caused widespread property damage throughout the region.

"We're expecting more scattered thunderstorms tonight in the Rogue Valley," meteorologist Brad Schaaf said Thursday. As of 2:30 p.m., the NWS station at the Medford airport was predicting heavy rains through the evening, with thunderstorms around 11 p.m. A Mail Tribune employee already reported seeing one lightning strike around 2:15 p.m. in the Medford area. The possibility of additional thunder and lightning will continue at least through Saturday, according to the agency's forecast Thursday evening.

Tuesday's storm, which prompted the NWS to issue a severe thunderstorm warning, left more than 6,400 residents without power and caused extensive damage from downed trees and flooding throughout the Rogue Valley.

Ashland was hit particularly hard, with flash flooding damaging multiple storefronts on the Plaza and forcing the cancellation of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's evening production of "The Count of Monte Cristo." The ground floor of the Mix bakeshop was submerged in almost four feet of water.

Tenants on Calle Guanajuato Way, which parallels Ashland Creek behind the Plaza storefronts, said a redesign of the creek-side area after a large flood in 1997 had proved insufficient to divert water away from their businesses. Public Works Director Mike Faught said Tuesday's flooding significantly exceeded that from the previous 25-year storm, adding that the area is already under study for further improvements, including possibly adding a pipe with a flapper valve to allow excess water to flow into the creek.

"The atmosphere is getting a bit worked over with the storms we've been having," Schaaf said. "The flow direction and the amount of moisture, which is where we'd see the heavy rain from, is a bit unusual, but thunderstorms aren't uncommon this time of year."

Thursday saw a special weather statement issued for western Siskiyou County, Calif., predicting half-inch hail, strong thunderstorms and winds in excess of 40 mph. A hazardous weather outlook was also issued for the coast of Northern California, where scattered thunderstorms, gusty winds and some localized flooding were forecast. No flood warning had been issued for the Rogue Valley, Schaaf said.

The NWS issued a red flag warning, in effect until 8 p.m Thursday, for Jackson and Josephine counties, advising lightning strikes could start fires outside of rainfall areas. Lightning strikes Tuesday caused several grass fires near Agate Lake and are believed to have caused one house fire in Medford. The U.S. Forest Service reported Thursday that no new lightning-caused fires from Tuesday's storm have been identified yet on its lands in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, but that the agency was conducting multiple reconnaissance flights and had firefighting resources on standby. 

The weather service asks residents to stay indoors for safety if they hear thunder.

Freelancer John Darling contributed to this report. Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.