A snow day

Jackson County schools will be closed today. And northbound Interstate 5 near Gold Hill remained closed as of press time due to a series of rollover crashes near Blackwell Hill, officials say. Sunday's heavy snows and falling temperatures have created dangerous driving conditions, said Gary Leaming, spokesman for Oregon Department of Transportation.

"Our advice is don't travel unless you absolutely have to," Leaming said. "The morning commute is going to be very bad. Drivers are going to have icy conditions on state highways and on the streets."

The severe weather warning for Jackson County is expected to last until 4 p.m. this afternoon, according to Medford's National Weather Service Forecast office. Snow will continue all week as a series of storm systems passes through the valley, according to the forecast.

The storms may leave between one to three inches of snow depending on elevation. But new snow accumulation for each system is predicted to be less than one inch, the NWS reports.

Sunday's heavy snowfall caused a flurry of vehicle accidents and downed power lines as emergency crews scrambled to rescue stranded motorists and keep roads clear, officials said.

Drivers spun out at several sites on north and southbound sides of I-5 at near Blackwell Road and Foley Lane where lanes were narrowed due to construction shortly after 8 p.m., Leaming said.

"Two semi-trucks tangled in the work zone," in the northbound lanes, said Leaming. A truck hauling a boat also flipped its trailer in the area, said Leaming.

Emergency vehicles chained up early and got ready for changing weather conditions Sunday afternoon as up to six inches of snow were reported from Ashland to Wimer and the Applegate. Snowplows were out early in Ashland, since the town's higher elevation resulted in snow-covered roads by noon.

Sporadic power outages in Ashland shut down restaurants and businesses on East Main Street for several hours Sunday afternoon, residents reported.

Downed power lines closed I-5 near Canyonville from about noon until 4:30 p.m. I-5 traffic was also halted about eight miles south of Cottage Grove during the same period when a semitrailer rollover accident blocked all lanes of traffic until early evening, Leaming said.

The downed lines on I-5 did not appear to create power outages, according to Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt.

Emergency scanners reported a steady stream of spinouts and rollovers on area highways and freeways, keeping Rogue Valley first responders busy checking on passengers while tow trucks pulled vehicles out of ditches and off guard rails.

The numerous vehicle accidents had not resulted in serious injuries as of press time, said Peggy Lehman, Rogue Valley Medical Center hospital supervisor.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Medford Police Department also sent out an alert requesting travel be kept to a minimum "for the safety of citizens and their property."

"PLEASE do not drive unless absolutely necessary," said Sgt. Kevin Walruff.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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