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High winds, heavy rains in the forecast

A second month of above average rainfall ‘will put dents in the drought,’ meteorologists say

National Weather Service meteorologists say the new water year is off to a strong start, but with heavy rains and strong winds in the Rogue Valley forecast, they’re urging caution behind the wheel and around trees.

A pair of storm systems are expected to bring rains that in a week could surpass the typical October’s precipitation numbers, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Shad Keene in Medford. That’s atop rainfall last month that — at 1.48 inches — was more than triple the normal average of 0.48 inches for September.

“This will put dents in the drought,” Keene said. “It’s not removing the drought or erasing the drought, but it’s certainly favorable and beneficial.”

On Tuesday afternoon, however, Keene was more concerned about winds blowing from the south and southeast with the first storm system, which is expected to reach 30 to 40 mph Tuesday evening and overnight.

“We’re telling people if you have Halloween decorations, secure them or take them down,” Keene said. “Take due precautions, especially between Ashand, Medford and surrounding foothills.”

Wednesday’s forecast calls for breezy conditions, followed by trace amounts of rain — roughly 0.08 inches.

Surrounding areas in Northern California and the Oregon Coast will see significantly more precipitation.

“Lots of the surrounding area will get rain,” Keene said.

In the Rogue Valley Thursday, the forecast calls for winds to pick up from “breezy to windy” ahead of a “really, really powerful” storm system coming into the region that will bring in the bulk of the rains for the week.

By Friday, a storm system Keene described as a “moderate to strong atmospheric river” will bring between a half- inch and an inch of rain to the Medford-Ashland area.

An atmospheric river is a narrow channel of moisture driven into the region by a weather front, according to Keene.

The precipitation is largely expected to target the Cascades and coastal areas. Keene advised motorists to be prepared for driving in the rain — particularly when driving to the Oregon Coast or Northern California.

Rivers aren’t high enough to flood because of the drought, but Keene said those in wildfire burn scars should watch out for potential debris flows.

“If folks are out in those areas, they need to be extra cautious during these heavy rain periods,” Keene said.

Keene also advised locals to watch out for trees during the windy periods because the summer heat and drought conditions left many trees with weakened roots and branches — even if the tree appears healthy and fully leafed out.

"This wind might impact trees a little differently,“ Keene said.

October normally averages 1.22 inches of rainfall, according to Keene. Meteorologists expect this week’s rain to help the region surpass the average.

“We will end up this month above normal precipitation,” Keene said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.