13,000 without power

It wasn't on par with a Mayan apocalypse, but a winter storm packing snow, ice and rain brought chaos to Southern Oregon on Friday.

The day began with falling trees crashing into homes and powerlines in Jackson and Josephine counties, leaving thousands without power.

More than 13,113 Pacific Power customers in Josephine and Jackson counties were without electricity for most of the morning, company officials reported.

The majority of those outages were in Josephine County, prompting a joint effort between Pacific Power and the American Red Cross to set up warming shelters across the county. They set up at Cave Junction City Hall and the Josephine County Fairgrounds in Grants Pass.

The Sheriff's Department there continued to take calls for people needing rides to the shelters late into the evening. Deputies were dispatched to give elderly people rides to the shelters, as well as those without cars.

Pacific Power said on its website they expect a majority of customers to have their power back by this evening. Crews from across the state are flocking to the area to help with restoration. They will work through the weekend.

Meanwhile, the driving conditions in the higher elevations were a nightmare, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming said.

"We are advising that you avoid travel until further notice," Leaming said. "It's just not a good idea to be out on the roads."

ODOT began turning southbound traffic around at Exit 14 on Friday so truckers and other travelers were forced to use services in the Rogue Valley. The Expo in Central Point was opened to stranded truckers to wait out the storm, Leaming said.

"We have had quite a few truck drivers stay at the fairgrounds," Leaming said.

The closing of the freeway's southbound lanes caused huge traffic backups in the afternoon as cars and semitrailers jostled for position to take the Ashland exits.

Stranded motorists quickly filled up Ashland's hotels and motels, said Hayley Cronin, who works at the Ashland Super 8.

"We are filled to capacity and the phones have been ringing off the hook," Cronin said. "I've spoken to other motels near our exit and they are all filling up."

The freeway finally was opened to traffic at around 8 p.m. However, a strict chain requirement was in place, ODOT said in a news release.

For the second day in a row, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department reported numerous crashes and spinouts on county roads. No serious injuries were reported.

The Mt. Ashland Ski Area reopened Friday morning after receiving 29 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours. The snowfall brought its total at the top of the mountain to 99 inches.

National Weather Service officials say 13 inches of new snow will fall on the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges by early today.

This means more rain and possibly snow for the Rogue Valley through the weekend. A trace of snow accumulation is possible in and around Medford with up to 2 inches for elevations above 1,500 feet.

The snow is expected to taper off in Jackson County as we move into the weekend. However, the rain will continue to fall, which could lead to flooding conditions, the weather service reported.

Highs are expected to hover in the low 40s through Sunday, with lows remaining just above freezing at night.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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