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Snow, heavy winds in Southwest Oregon's Thanksgiving travel week forecast

High winds and snow are part of the Thanksgiving week forecast in Southwest Oregon and Northern California, meaning winter weather during a travel period that’s already expected to be quite busy across the state, especially on the road.

The bulk of the breezy and cold forecast is expected to be on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Snow that’s expected to affect area passes and could even reach all the way down to the Rogue Valley floor will join some heavy winds with gusts that could reach 60 mph.

A low pressure system that’s developed in the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon/Washington coast is expected to move into the region Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. A significant and rapid pressure drop associated with the system has meteorologists classifying it as a “bomb cyclone,” meaning the potential for high winds along the Southern Oregon coast and inland, along with the potential for snow because of the cold air already in place.

“It actually is forecast to move inland Tuesday evening pretty close to the state line,” said meteorologist Marc Spilde.

High winds are forecast to first affect Oregon coastal towns from Cape Blanco, with sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph sustained and gusts of up to 80 mph on more exposed headland areas such as Cape Blanco and Cape Sebastian. Winds are also expected further north around Coos Bay, North Bend, and Cape Arago, but not to the same severity as more southern coastal towns.

Later, those windy conditions are forecast to move inland, affecting the Shasta Valley and portions of the Rogue Valley. Areas east of the Cascades should also see some wind. Jackson County’s windy period is expected to last through Tuesday night. On Sunday, the Weather Service had scheduled a high wind watch for 1 to 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“We have winds basically (of) 25 to 35 mph, and there could be gusts, especially at the south end of the valley, to 60,” Spilde said.

Part of that high wind watch is expected to run simultaneously with a winter storm watch, set to run from 10 a.m. Tuesday to 10 a.m. Wednesday. The affected coverage area for the winter storm watch includes areas above 2,500 feet in elevation in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Siskiyou counties. Much of Douglas County and a sliver of western Lake County are also included, according to the Weather Service website. The Mt. Shasta region is expected to be the hardest hit.

“We’re expecting snow amounts basically greater than a foot down there,” Spilde said. “Amounts could be, in some places, up to two feet. At the top of Mt. Shasta, we’re predicting over 30 inches of snow. They’re going to get blasted up there. The higher terrain of western Siskiyou County as well, those mountains are going to get hit.”

The snow levels are then forecast to start falling to “at least 1,500 feet, if not lower,” Tuesday night, according to a Sunday Weather Service bulletin. Medford could see up to half an inch or so by Wednesday morning, with a foot to 18 inches of snow forecast for Crater Lake, Diamond Lake and Lake of the Woods during the same period. About 2 to 3 inches is forecast for Hayes Hill while Sexton Mountain could see 6 to 8 inches, andabout 4 to 6 inches are forecast for Canyon Mountain Pass, the bulletin said.

Showers should taper off by Thanksgiving morning, but Wednesday night temperatures are expected to drop to below freezing, meaning slick conditions for drivers on freeways and highways expected to be quite packed. Earlier this month, AAA reported a 2019 Thanksgiving travel week forecast of 748,000 Oregonians, with a majority — 643,000 — traveling by personal vehicle.

A break in the cold, wet weather is expected to last through Saturday morning, when another system that could affect the area for post-holiday travelers is expected. Snow levels are expected to be higher on this second system, anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 feet.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.