Storm slams Ashland

As a powerful winter storm battered Ashland for the second consecutive day, officials temporarily shut down Interstate 5 due to blizzard-like conditions Wednesday afternoon in California.

ODOT reopened I-5 southbound at about 3 p.m., about an hour after closing it to allow California officials to plow snow off the interstate. I-5 had been closed between Redding and Ashland.

"Our advisory is that we still have the blizzard conditions in California," said Gary Leaming, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "Expect extreme winter driving conditions once you get down to the Mt. Shasta and Weed area."

It was possible the Siskiyou Pass could close again late Wednesday or today, he said.

"It depends on how California manages that and what kinds of conditions they get," he said. "It's just kind of a big snowy mess down there."

In Ashland, the winter storm caused 25 to 35 mph winds, toppling trees and shaking vehicles. The strongest gust in Ashland Wednesday was 41 mph, recorded at 7:35 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The lowest atmospheric pressure on record in Medford occurred Wednesday. Atmospheric pressure fell to 28.88 inches of mercury at the National Weather Service office in Medford. Normal atmospheric pressure — the weight of the atmosphere, as expressed in terms of its ability to support a column of mercury — is 29.92 inches.

In Ashland atmospheric pressure fell to 28.89 inches of mercury, according to the National Weather Service. Historic records were not available for Ashland, meteorologist Marc Spilde said.

The storm did not fall any power lines in Ashland, but did knock over some cable TV and phone apparatuses, said Scott Johnson, operations superintendent at Ashland Electric.

Those out in the elements Wednesday had to navigate not only through the driving wind and rain, but also through debris. Trash and tree branches littered many city streets.

Southern Oregon University freshman Lexi Thomas held onto her hood and leaned against the wind as she crossed Siskiyou Boulevard on her way to class.

"It's kind of difficult because you're going one direction and you end up going the other direction," she said. "I'll be happy when this lets up and I don't have to force myself against this crazy wind."

The wind was expected to continue until about 4 a.m. today, according to an advisory issued by the National Weather Service office in Medford.

Forecasts call for showers and milder winds today and into the weekend, Spilde said.

"Basically the storm system is going to be moving into central California so a lot of the heavy precipitation will stay to the south," he said.

Snow levels will remain between 3,000 and 3,500 feet above sea level. Ashland is at about 2,000 feet.

Despite being battered by powerful winds, no trees fell in Ashland parks Tuesday or Wednesday, said Steve Gies, superintendent of city parks.

"There's a lot of debris in Lithia Park," he said. We haven't lost any of trees at all so were feeling pretty lucky."

Like many Ashland residents, Gies was anxious Wednesday for the wind to let up, he said.

"We're kind of waiting for the wind to get over with," he said. "It'll be good to start cleaning everything up."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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