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Southbound I-5 reopens following back-to-back closures

The Oregon Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 5 to southbound traffic Thursday at the south Ashland exit after heavy snow in Northern California prompted back-to-back closures.

But motorists will likely still have long waits to contend with, as ODOT officials plan to meter traffic, allowing drivers back onto the freeway in a gradual manner.

“Basically they’re releasing only so many vehicles at a time so you don’t release this big knot of traffic all at once,” said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. “That’s the point. We’re trying to flush the system in a very smart way.”

The first closure was in effect from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, enacted by ODOT at the request of the California Department of Transportation because of a weather system that dropped multiple feet of snow on parts of Siskiyou County. The National Weather Service reported Wednesday that snow fell at a rate of more than an inch per hour near Mt. Shasta City, with one site recording 27 inches of snowfall over 24 hours.

The winter storm caused snarled traffic on multiple parts of I-5 between Yreka and Redding, prompting CalTrans closures for southbound traffic from southern Yreka to 10 miles north of Redding. Both closures have since been lifted, though chains are required at multiple spots, with a chain screening for southbound traffic in south Yreka, according to CalTrans public information officer Mario Montalvo.

“As with any weather system, conditions can change, which could lead to another closure,” Montalvo said via email.

Chains were not required over the Siskiyou Summit, ODOT said. Travel into the region should be avoided until at least Friday, if possible, Leaming said, due to potential delays, icy conditions and heavy traffic.

“If the average driver can wait a day, it’s going to be a much more pleasurable drive, and your travel time’s going to be a lot better,” he said.

For the latest Oregon road conditions, check tripcheck.com. For California, check quickmap.dot.ca.gov.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.