Storms will bring rain to the coast, snow to the mountains

Southern Oregon is bracing for a windy, wet and even snowy set of storm fronts that will dump significant rain on the Coast Range and drop as much as a foot of snow on Cascade mountain passes but largely spare the Rogue Valley.

The front will start off slow Tuesday but gain intensity throughout the day until it brings moderate to significant snowfall in the western Siskiyou Mountains and the Oregon Cascades above the 4,000-foot level into Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service reported.

"The snow will drop more significantly later in the day as the cold air moves in," says Jim Bunker, a hydro-meteorological technician at the weather service's office at the Medford airport.

Interstate 5's Siskiyou Summit is forecast to get about an inch of snow Tuesday, with another 3 to 4 inches piling up by Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

The service also predicts 2 inches Tuesday at Highway 140's summit near Lake of the Woods, and then an additional 5 to 6 inches by Wednesday morning.

The heaviest snows on local mountain passes likely will be on Highway 138 across the Cascades, Bunker says.

Travelers should expect 3 to 4 inches of snow blanketing roads above 4,000 feet on Tuesday morning, followed by as much as 8 extra inches by Wednesday morning, Bunker says.

I-5 motorists heading north should be spared any snow out of the Rogue Valley as the passes there are all about 2,000 feet above sea level and in what should be the rain zone, Bunker says.

Oregon Department of Transportation crews plan to get a jump on the storm by pre-treating I-5's Siskiyou Summit with a magnesium chloride de-icer, ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming says.

They will tackle the snow as it comes, Leaming says.

"We're still in winter, though we haven't had much for winter lately," Leaming says. "We're ready for it when it comes in."

While the Coast Range is too low for snow this go-around, it will receive its usual pounding of rain, probably 2 to 4 inches, Bunker says.

In Medford, however, it will be much ado about little.

Slightly less than one-third of an inch is forecast to puddle in Medford throughout the storm, but wind gusts could reach 20 mph, Bunker says.

Today in Medford was the proverbial calm before the storm. Light winds and clear skies brought with them a high of 64 degrees in town, well under the March 4 record of 74.7 degrees set here in 1934.

— Mark Freeman

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