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Snowstorm leaves thousands without power

More than 23,000 Douglas County residents remain without power following a Monday snowstorm that ripped through the area, causing multiple highways and public agencies to close and stranding an Amtrak train near Eugene for more than 36 hours.

This morning, the snow's reach could be felt in Jackson County, closing Prospect Charter School for the day and prompting a two-hour delayed start at Butte Falls Charter School.

Interstate 5, which originally had been closed in both directions from Glendale to Cottage Grove, nearly 100 miles of freeway, reopened late Monday afternoon. Drivers in northern Douglas County should still plan for delays due to tree limbs and other debris in the roadway, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. Additionally, U.S. Highway 101 is closed north of Brookings because of a 2-foot sunken grade. Oregon Highway 42 remains closed between Coquille and Bandon due to high water. Fallen trees and power lines have closed Oregon Highway 138 west between Sutherlin and Elkton, and east between mileposts 17 and 60, and Oregon Highway 38 west of Elkton between mileposts 29 and 37.

Between 5 to 15 inches of new snow fell across Douglas County over a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service reported. State offices in Douglas County remain closed except for Reedsport due to the ongoing power outages.

Weekend weather also left 183 Amtrak passengers aboard the Coast Starlight 11 train stranded since Sunday after it struck a fallen tree on the tracks, according to the Associated Press. That train has reportedly begun moving again today, according to Amtrak's Twitter.

Monday's snow set records in parts of Central Oregon, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. More than a foot fell in Bend over a 24-hour period, breaking a century-old record for February, OPB said.

Even ski resorts were affected, with the Mt. Ashland Ski Area closing Monday because of high winds, and leaving the Mt. Shasta Ski Park in Northern California closed today.

The snow isn't over yet, the weather service says.

The front that caused snow in Douglas County and steady rain in Josephine and Jackson counties worked in tandem with a moisture stream that extended from the storm area out to an area near Hawaii. Overnight Monday, both the front and moisture stream pushed south into Northern California, National Weather Service meteorologist Connie Clarstrom said.

"When we had that heavy rain during (Monday) afternoon, that was basically when the front was passing over the Medford area," Clarstrom said.

This morning, the front was just north of the San Francisco Bay area, and meteorologists anticipate it will move back into Southwest Oregon today into Wednesday.

"There's another (low) pressure system approaching California and the California coast today, and as it does so, it's going to bring that front back north," Clarstrom said. "However, the majority of the moisture will stay in California this round."

Jackson and Josephine counties will be in a cooler pattern because of the front's return, with snow levels varying dramatically, anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 feet. A winter weather advisory is in effect for Jackson County until 6 p.m., the weather service said. A winter storm warning is in effect for most of neighboring Klamath County and much of Northern California until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Up to 4 inches of new snow is generally expected in areas above 2,000 feet, with some of those spots expected to receive as much as 8 inches, a Weather Service bulletin reads.

The front is then expected to push back into Douglas County during the evening, Clarstrom said, with snow levels dropping down to about 1,500 to 2,000 feet.

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

I-5, is snowed in at milepost 154 about 20 miles south of Cottage Grove in this Oregon Department of Transportation photo taken Monday.
Oregon Department of Transportation crews work to clear snow and debris from Highway 138 between Glide and Diamond Lake. Photo courtesy of ODOT