How low will it go? Snow headed back to Southern Oregon

An unusually cold storm system for late March could bring snow to Southern Oregon tonight through Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said in a special weather statement this morning.

Waves of cold air from the Gulf of Alaska are headed toward Oregon, with the first batch of low pressure and cold air hitting Jackson County tonight, the forecast said.

Snow levels will drop to between 2,000 and 2,500 feet overnight, with up to 2 inches stacking up above 2,500 feet by Wednesday morning. Higher terrain, such as the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, could get up to 5 inches.

Spring has warmed the ground at lower elevations, so an inch or less of snow is expected down to about 2,000 feet.

Another round of snow, with snow levels perhaps dipping to the valley floor, is expected Wednesday night. The coldest air will hit around midnight, pushing the snow level down to 1,000 feet briefly, the forecast said.

The Siskiyous could get 3 to 5 inches of snow and the Cascades could see 5 to 10 inches. A slushy accumulation is possible down to about 1,500 feet, the weather statement said.

Meteorologist Mike O'Brien doesn't expect to see much snow on the ground in the Rogue Valley, but some flakes will fall.

"The temperature dips to near freezing every night, so it doesn't take much more," he said.

He noted that the gray, rainy weather of the past week has brought new snow daily to Crater Lake.

The weather service warned that the cold front could cause road conditions to deteriorate rapidly in the mountains, so drivers should stay informed and be prepared for changing conditions.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming said that spring break travelers often have warm weather pursuits on their minds and aren't set for sudden wintry weather, even when they should be. He advised people to keep winter gear in their vehicles, but said the department won't extend the deadline for studded tires.

They must be removed after March 31: That's Monday.

— Anita Burke

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