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Highway 138 reopens

Highways 62 and 230 remain closed in the South Cascades and could remain that way through the weekend, blocking access to Diamond Lake and Crater Lake National Park as crews scramble to clear routes mired since Saturday in heavy snow, downed trees and ruptured power lines.

Both highways, which together are a popular route over the Cascades between Medford and Bend, remain closed at their junction just north of Union Creek, causing drivers to seek longer options between the two population hubs, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Crews Thursday afternoon were finally able to allow traffic to resume along Highway 138 between Roseburg and Highway 97, allowing ODOT to turn its attention to Highway 230, ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming says.

"They'll be up there (today) working on the 230 as long as trees aren't falling," Leaming says. "Optimistically, it could be open (today) or Saturday, but it could be closed through the weekend."

Highways 62, 230 and 138 have been mired in more than 5 feet of snow that has fallen in less than a week, including an extra 14 inches late Wednesday and early Thursday in the Diamond Lake area, hampering downed-tree removal and the clearing of a slide on Highway 138 east of Glide, Leaming says.

A concern about opening Highway 138 is the forecast for high-elevation rains tonight that could turn the road's packed snow into slush, Leaming says.

"Basically, you could be having a 12-inch Slurpee you're trying to drive through," Leaming says.

With Highway 230 closed, motorists between Bend and Medford can travel through Eugene on Highway 126 or over to Klamath Falls to access Highway 97 into Bend. Highways 230 and 62 are closed at their junction just north of Union Creek, according to ODOT.

Rain, not snow, was forecast to fall overnight below the 7,000-foot elevation, with the snow level forecast to drop to about 5,500 feet by sunup Friday, says Brad Schaaf, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford. The snow level was forecast to drop down to the 4,000-foot level by Friday afternoon as the colder portion of the storm moves through the Cascades, Schaaf says.

Diamond Lake is at 5,138 feet above sea level.

Fallen trees and downed power lines have isolated Diamond Lake Resort, which has been operating on generators since the weekend, says John Jonesburg, the resort's events coordinator.

ODOT crews on Monday and Tuesday had to escort the final few guests out and down a closed Highway 138 toward Roseburg. The only people remaining are employees and their families, numbering about 65, he says.

While ODOT and Pacific Power crews work to restore traffic and power, the resorts' own crews are grappling with heavy snow and downed trees that have damaged infrastructure, Jonesburg says.

"It's the worst I've ever seen it up here," Jonesburg says.

When traffic is restored to Highways 138 and 230, motorists should not expect to get access to Sno Park locations, which remain under heavy snow, Leaming says.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.