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Competing air masses wreak havoc in Oregon

Heavy rain and snow ripped through parts of southwest Oregon Monday, closing highways and government offices and leaving thousands without power.

Josephine and Jackson counties got soaked with rain, and heavy winds on Mount Ashland closed the mountain to skiers. "Do not attempt to come to the mountain today," a Mt. Ashland Ski Area Facebook post said. "We are forecast for 65 mile an hour gusts."

Farther north, in Douglas County, a snowstorm brought some areas to a virtual standstill.

The difference between rain in Jackson and Josephine counties and winter weather in Douglas County was a stationary front that parked itself just north of the Umpqua Divide.

“It’s two air masses,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Connie Clarstrom. “You’ve got one that’s a cold air mass to the north, and then you have a moist, warm air mass to the south.”

Roseburg, which sits at 528 feet in elevation, received snow, while rain fell on Sexton Summit, about an hour’s drive south on Interstate 5 and at 1,960 feet in elevation.

“You get to about north of Canyonville, you start getting into the snow, and that’s just because they have cold air. Cold air kind of got trapped in those valleys as well, in addition to being just north of the front,” Clarstrom said. “And you have moisture streaming in from the southwest up and over this front, and that’s what’s causing this heavy snow up there and heavy rain down here.”

The front began to push south Monday afternoon, shifting the overnight forecast to include the possibility of snow on the valley floors.

“That forecast could change,” Clarstrom said. “It’s a very dynamic forecast period right now.”

Weather Service officials said residents should continue to monitor the forecast to stay up to date on the best information.

By Monday evening, multiple spots in Jackson County had seen more than an inch of rain in 24 hours, including Rogue River, Gold Hill and Ruch. Medford and Ashland received about four-fifths of an inch and three-fifths of an inch respectively during the same time period.

The Cascades got walloped with snow. The Diamond Lake area received 40 inches in 24 hours by Sunday, the Weather Service said — good news for the Rogue and Umpqua basins, which were at 101 percent of average snowpack Monday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

No flooding on major streams is expected, though the Rogue River near Agness is expected to rise to near flood stage Tuesday.

The Sunday and Monday snowfall caused multiple highway closures in Douglas and Coos counties.

Interstate 5 was closed between Glendale and Cottage Grove, nearly 100 miles of freeway. Both lanes reopened by about 4 p.m., though single-lane closures were still expected because of debris.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials closed Oregon Highway 42 between Coquille and Bandon due to a landslide. Heavy snow that caused trees and power lines to fall into the roadway closed Oregon Highway 138 west between Sutherlin and Elkton, and east between mileposts 17 and 60, or just east of Glide to West Toketee. Fallen trees and power lines also closed Oregon Highway 38 west of Elkton between mileposts 29 and 37, and Highway 101 was closed 12 miles north of Brookings due to a sunken grade.

More than 31,000 Pacific Power customers were left without electricity Monday, resulting in the closures of Douglas County, Sutherlin and Port Orford/Langlois school districts and all Oregon state offices in Douglas County, except Reedsport.

“It’s quite a mess up there,” ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said Monday.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.

A picture from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office shows a downed power line on a snowy highway.{ }