Region braces for 'historic' storm
Travel advisories have been issued in the Rogue Valley and beyond as the region braces for heavy winds this afternoon, more snow overnight, and temperatures in the low teens later in the week.
Ahead of one of the busiest travel days of the year, the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings expected to last late into Wednesday afternoon in Southern Oregon and Northern California — particularly on the mountain passes — but travelers should expect inclement weather to last through the week.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oregon Dept. of Transportation said travel is not advised Tuesday night in Southern Oregon due to blizzard conditions along the I-5 corridor and southwest Oregon interior highways, according to a Tuesday afternoon release. Highway 62 is closed north of Prospect, according to an ODOT release, along with roadways east of Roseburg, as is Brookings near the Oregon Coast Highway and Oregon 138 east of Roseburg.
Oregon Highways 38, 52 and U.S. Highway 101 are all delayed from downed trees and power lines, according to ODOT, but as of just before 4:30 p.m. the roadway were still open, but down to single lanes.
"Travel is not advised in Southwest Oregon tonight," the ODOT release says. "Be prepared for wind, low visibility and poor winter driving conditions until the storm passes."
ODOT asks motorists to drive carefully because of numerous spin-outs and crashes, and monitor conditions at Tripcheck.com. California drivers should check Quickmap.dot.ca.gov for the latest conditions.
Chains are now required on all vehicles headed north of Grants Pass and south of Ashland on Interstate 5, according to ODOT, while the National Weather Service Office in Medford warns of a storm “of historic levels” predicted to include high winds that could cause power outages in neighboring counties.
South of the Oregon border, Caltrans closed northbound I-5 near Dunsmuir as of 3 p.m. Tuesday due to "multiple vehicle spin outs and winter weather conditions." According to ODOT and Caltrans, drivers on the pass should be prepared for winds and low visibility.
For travelers displaced by the storm, an emergency winter shelter will be open in Ashland from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd. For information about the shelter, contact organizer Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice at 541-841-8341.
National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Spilde said high are winds expected this afternoon and tonight, particularly at elevations above 2,500 feet.
Spilde said that although the storm is expected to clear by Wednesday morning, the Weather Service will keep the advisories through 4 p.m. Wednesday based on the snow’s lingering impacts.
“Snow that’s still left behind could be impactful into the afternoon,” Spilde said.
In Jackson County, the Weather Service advisory issued midday Tuesday predicts that travel will be “very difficult to impossible” at times from Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday afternoon, with wind gusts between 40 and 70 mph.
Light snow is expected Wednesday morning at elevations down to 1,000 feet.
At higher elevations in Jackson County, the combination of strong winds and heavy snow could cause downed trees and “near white-out conditions.”
The Weather Service said travel is “strongly discouraged” because of the dangerous conditions. Those who must travel should be prepared with tire chains, a flashlight, blankets, food, water and a fully charged phone.
High winds are expected to last until roughly 8 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to Spilde.
On Tuesday afternoon, a dusting of snow near the Medford airport quickly melted off, but an Eagle Point resident recorded about 2 inches of snow on a hill at an elevation of 1,800 feet.
Prior to the storm, the Rogue Valley had been facing one of its driest Novembers on record. Spilde said that as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the total precipitation for November was .09 inches — less than 4 percent of the typical 2.43 inches of precipitation.
Although weather advisories are expected to lift by Wednesday afternoon, temperatures are expected to drop into the teens later in the week. On Thanksgiving day, isolated showers and cold temperatures mean a risk of black ice.