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Southern Oregon snowpack up 25% in two weeks

More precipitation to fall this week, but snow expected at higher elevations than last week

After a spate of unseasonably cold, wet April weather, the snowpack in southwest Oregon has grown 25% since the start of the month.

The region, however, is still drier than it was at this time last year, and warmer temperatures in the forecast mean less fresh snow is on the horizon.

The snowpack in southwest Oregon — a region that comprises everything south of the Umpqua Divide and west of the Cascades, rose from 44% of normal April 1 to 69% of normal Monday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Weygand at the Medford weather station.

Weygand said the improvement is not enough to reverse the drought conditions exacerbated by an unusually dry January and February, but the late snows are beneficial because of their timing.

"Around April 1 is usually when the mountains reach their peak snowpack,“ Weygand said.

Snow this week is expected to fall mainly between 4,000 and 5,000 feet elevation, compared to 2,000 to 2,500 feet elevation last week.

“We’re trending warmer,” Weygand said.

The Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for high-elevation portions of the Siskiyou Mountains and Southern Oregon Cascades from 5 p.m. through midnight Monday. Motorists traveling on higher portions of Highway 140 and the Siskiyou summit on Interstate 5 near the California border were told to prepare for potential slippery road conditions.

The advisory warned of snows from 4 to 8 inches above 5,000 feet, 9 to 12 inches above 5,500 feet, and winds of up to 35 mph in exposed areas. Near whiteout conditions were possible at times Monday evening, the advisory said.

The Weather Service advised motorists to slow down, carry tire chains and be prepared for snow-covered roads and limited visibility.

For the latest road conditions from the Oregon Department of Transportation, dial 5-1-1, call 1-800-977-6368 or see TripCheck.com. Mountain pass forecasts are available at weather.gov/medford/pass_forecasts.

The Medford area saw nearly an inch of precipitation last week, improving from 10.52 inches of precipitation recorded as of April 11 to 11.5 inches by April 18.

At 11.50 inches, the region is still “extremely dry,” according to Weygand — down 22% for this point in a normal water year, and down more than a third of an inch behind the 11.86 inches the region was at April 18, 2021.

The 1.52 inches of precipitation recorded for the month of April is well above the 0.93 inches meteorologists typically expect.

“That’s 163% of normal for the month,” Weygand said. “We’re actually ahead of normal for this month.”

Precipitation for the year remains well below normal. For the calendar year, meteorologists have recorded 3.59 inches of rainfall since Jan. 1, which is 48% of the typical 7.42 inches they’d normally expect for the Medford area.

More precipitation is expected in the Medford area this week, but Weygand said the unseasonably cold temperatures are expected to stay above freezing. The five-day forecast shows lows through Friday in the high 30s and highs in the low 60s Monday afternoon and in the high 50s for the rest of the week.

Rain showers between a tenth and a quarter inch were possible Monday night, according to the forecast. More wet weather was expected through Friday night.

The next system was expected Tuesday afternoon, a series of weaker systems were expected late Wednesday into Thursday, and another stronger front was expected late Thursday into Friday.

“There’ll be some light to moderate amounts,” Weygand said of the precipitation forecast.

The storm system could bring “just a slight chance” of thunderstorms in Southern Oregon Thursday afternoon into the evening.

Meteorologists are watching for storms Wednesday in coastal areas north of Cape Blanco, and believe they could spread to other parts of southwest Oregon the following day.

“With the front coming through on Thursday, there may be a broader slight chance through much of our area,” Weygand said.

Next week’s weather is more difficult for meteorologists to predict, according to Weygand, but forecasters expect the weather pattern will bring cool, wet weather but “shift a little higher north.”

If the forecast holds, Weygand described additional rains “on the lighter side” and temperatures “more likely to be near normal.”

“Not high and dry, but not really wet either,” Weygand said.

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