Slow go in the snow

A winter storm dropped two to three inches of snow on Ashland early this morning, enough to delay schools two hours and create plenty of slippery roads. The Siskiyou Pass saw five inches of new snow, with a foot of accumulation on the roadside.

Snow began Sunday afternoon and a second round moved in around 2 a.m. this morning, said Michael Brien, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford.

A few snow showers were expected through this afternoon.

"They should be pretty light, and we'll probably start seeing some breaks in the clouds tomorrow," he said.

No additional snow was predicted for Tuesday's commute, but cold temperatures in the mid-20s are expected to persist, he said.

Another snow storm is headed toward the Rogue Valley on Thursday, which could bring another one to three inches to Ashland, he said.

Mt. Ashland reported 12 to 18 inches of new snow this morning, still not enough to open, according to the ski area's Web site.

Drivers headed southbound on I-5 were erroneously instructed by an electronic sign to use Exit 19 only rather than continue on to Exit 14, causing traffic to back up for more than a mile during the morning commute, said Gary Leaming, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

"That was a mix up on our part," he said. "We're taking measures so that won't be repeated."

Motorists on the Siskiyou Pass reported few incidents, and chains were required for only a short period of time, Leaming said. By today, only trucks and towing vehicles were required to use chains.

The biggest concern now is the dip in temperatures.

"Our current wet roads which are damp right now will freeze up, which could cause problems for drivers the rest of today and tonight," he said. "We could see some additional blasts of snow, and obviously things are cooling off. Both of those combined will mean that driving will be a hazard, and what we've always preached is drive to the conditions and be prepared."

Drivers should allow extra time, bring food and water, carry chains and know how to attach them, he said.

Drivers react

In town, today's snow disrupted routines for some, and for others, it was business as usual.

Francesca Fericano, owner of the Little Shop of Bagels in the Ashland Street Shopping Center, came to work at 4:30 a.m., half an hour later than normal because she knew the early-morning crowd would be thin.

"Whenever it snows, almost everybody's getting out late," she said.

But the pre-dawn commute meant smooth steering for Fericano.

"I had no problems because nobody else was on the roads," she said.

Her assistant manager, Mary Ann Caruso, however, made a marathon trek when she couldn't get out of her driveway on Wimer Street on the other side of town. Her husband found a cleat to clamp onto one of her shoes and she walked 40 minutes to work, arriving at 6:45 a.m.

Minor accidents

By 10 a.m., the Ashland Police Department had responded to one minor traffic accident and heard about one ambulance that got stuck on a steep slope, forcing the emergency responders to walk the rest of the way, according to Sgt. Bob Smith. But the storm caused relatively few problems, he said.

"As far the numbers of activities that have been generated because of it, they have been very minor for us."

In the Ashland Street Shopping Center, Pete Howell, a truck driver for Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass made his biweekly pickup of cardboard boxes at The Dollar Tree, undaunted by the flurries. During the 45-minute drive, he was delayed for 20 minutes and saw one lone car slide off the road, he said.

"It wasn't bad," he said. "You've just got to keep your head, don't drive too fast, leave plenty of space between cars and have common sense."

And his advice for drivers anxiously venturing out in the snow?

"You can't worry," he said. "If you start worrying, you're in trouble."

Staff writer Julie French can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or

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