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Rogue Valley could see white Christmas

Photo courtesy of ODOT A winter storm system will bring more snow to the mountains and possibly the Rogue Valley floor.
Snow could snarl holiday travel plans

Snowy weather could complicate holiday driving plans and bring snow to the Rogue Valley floor starting on Christmas, which falls on Saturday this year.

“We won’t really see snow levels hitting the valley floor until Christmas night. We can’t rule out that we might see some snow during the day Saturday, but it’s more likely to be Saturday night and into the weekend and the start of the week after that,” said Misty Firmin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Medford.

Snowy conditions could last into Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, she said.

Leading up to Christmas, the Siskiyou Pass could start seeing winter impacts Wednesday night into Thursday. A short pause during the day Thursday could be followed by more snow, Firmin said.

“Probably Friday night into Saturday is when it will really get active and more snow will be coming down,” she said.

Firmin said it’s too early to tell whether there will be enough snow to shut down Interstate 5 across the Siskiyou Summit.

Last week, blizzard conditions from Ashland to Redding, California, and multiple disabled vehicles prompted the overnight closure of I-5.

Whether I-5 closes depends on what is happening both on the Oregon and California sides of the border, said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming.

Factors such as deep snow and crashes could trigger traffic delays or closures, he said.

Leaming said everyone should be prepared for winter driving conditions. Carry chains and know how to put them on.

Check driving conditions and look for delays or closures in Oregon at tripcheck.com. The site includes views from road cameras stationed throughout Oregon.

To see conditions in California, visit quickmap.dot.ca.gov.

Leaming urged drivers to be patient, prepared and flexible.

Rogue Valley drivers heading north for Christmas might see snow late Thursday night into Friday morning. Snow could be heavier Friday night into Saturday, Firmin said.

Drivers should give themselves plenty of travel time and try to get to their destination before Friday evening, she advised.

Be prepared for winter conditions by bringing essentials like medications, flashlights, blankets, food and water, Firmin said.

A combination of cold, moist weather moving into the area is driving the current weather pattern of rain and snow.

“We’ll have low pressure off shore that will allow for some colder systems in the Northwest to drop down into our region and really drop the snow levels and bring in some moisture,” Firmin said.

Leaming said everyone needs to consider their own driving skills and comfort level when it comes to winter conditions.

“Check the forecast and road cameras. It’s not a failure if you feel you don’t want to travel in winter weather,” he said. “With the holidays, there will be a lot of people on the road. There will be a lot of trucks on the road.”

Leaming said ODOT crews will be working through the holidays to try and keep people as safe as possible and roads open. He noted ODOT is responsible for state highways.

County and city roads in the Rogue Valley might not get plowed if snow on the valley floor overwhelms road maintenance departments.

Although the snow and rain make holiday planning more difficult, they do bring much-needed precipitation to drought-stricken Southern Oregon.

Precipitation is about 80% to 90% of normal for the water year, which started Oct. 1. For the calendar year, precipitation is about 70% to 80% of normal, Firmin said.

At gas stations in the Medford-Ashland area, drivers will continue to feel pain at the pump. The average price of a gallon of gas dipped a few cents to $3.91 compared to $3.96 a month ago. But prices are much higher than the average price of $2.58 a gallon a year ago, the American Automobile Association reported Tuesday.

The Medford-Ashland area has the highest gas prices of any metro location in Oregon, AAA data shows.

At $4.66 a gallon, California has the highest average gas price of any state in the nation.

The average in Oregon is $2.77 a gallon, according to AAA.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.