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High wind warning in effect through Thursday afternoon in Rogue Valley

Winds have started to pick up in the Rogue Valley, with more to come. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph are forecast to hit parts of Jackson County most of the day Thursday, with the potential for property damage, power outages and dangerous conditions for drivers. 

The National Weather Service has issued a high-wind warning from 10 p.m. today through 4 p.m. Thursday for much of Jackson County, including Medford and Ashland. 

The valley's southern portion is expected to get pummeled the hardest, according to the advisory, with sustained 40 mph winds from the south and gusts of 60 mph. In Medford, wind speeds are expected to reach 35 mph with 45 mph gusts. 

"These types of winds will have the possibility to down power lines and trees across the Rogue Valley," said meteorologist Brad Schaaf. "This storm will be quite similar to the storm we saw last December."

That Dec. 11, 2014, storm wreaked havoc across Jackson County. A roof tore off a Medford business. Thousands lost power. A man backpacking with his son in the Mount Ashland area was killed when a tree fell on him. Trees also fell across highways, struck houses, downed power lines and started several fires. 

High-wind warnings are issued when sustained wind speeds are expected to reach 40 mph or higher, and when gusts are forecast to hit 58 mph or higher. 

In neighboring counties, wind speeds could get even higher. Siskiyou and Curry counties are forecast to see breezes up to 50 mph sustained with 70 mph gusts. Gusts could get as high as 90 mph over capes and headlands in Curry County, weather officials said. 

As much as four inches of rain is expected to douse coastal areas in Curry County, prompting a flood watch until late Thursday afternoon. Structures below steep slopes or in canyons are the most at risk, but landslides are also possible over area roadways. 

Snow levels are expected to drop from about 6,000 feet to about 3,500 feet Thursday night. Oregon Department of Transportation officials encouraged drivers heading over area passes to visit www.tripcheck.com or call 511 for up-to-date information. 

There is a chance for some rain across Jackson County, though it isn't expected to be much due to downsloping, a process that occurs when wind blows from higher elevations down to the valley floor, compacting along the way and warming. 

"We’re still expecting some downsloping to occur. As long as the winds are blowing strong, the rain won’t be as strong,” Schaaf said.

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