Chain restrictions have been lifted for I-5 mountain passes in Southern Oregon. Mail Tribune / file photo

Warming temps cool down highway concerns

After a morning of slip-sliding for Southern Oregon motorists, warming temperatures and some rain have eased travel concerns, with a winter storm warning lifted along with chain requirements for vehicles crossing passes on Interstate 5.

Police and tow truck drivers were busy this morning responding to numerous reports of vehicle accidents, after a dusting of snow and a coating of freezing rain put a slippery sheen on the snow and ice left over from this week's snow storm.

Oregon State Police was unable to pull an exact number of crashes caused by the slick conditions Saturday, but Capt. Bill Fugate described them as "a lot."

The National Weather Service said the slippery conditions were caused by a warm front that was "lifting north across southwest Oregon and Northern California (and) overrunning very cold Arctic air already in place."

Though Medford police has recorded twice as many accidents this week because of the winter weather — 51 this week in contrast to 24 prior to the storm — no accidents were reported Saturday morning, according to Sgt. Jason Antley with Medford police.

A winter storm warning was lifted as of noon today, and temperatures above freezing are forecast for tomorrow, according to meteorologist Shad Keene, with lows in the mid- to upper 30s and highs in the 40s for Medford. Precipitation had largely cleared as of Saturday afternoon.

Because of the moderate conditions, the Oregon Department of Transportation had lifted tire chain requirements on I-5 over the Siskiyou and Sexton summits, though hazardous conditions continue in Douglas County north to the Willamette Valley and Portland area.

Keene said half an inch to an inch of rain is forecast for Sunday. 

"It's significant rain on top of snow," Keene said.

 The weather service is currently monitoring forecasts for flood conditions in the Medford area, according to Keene, with particular concerns about urban flooding and street flooding, as the rains are expected to combine with the area's snowpack to create significant runoff. 

Keene encouraged homeowners to take advantage of the break Saturday and clear their gutters and drains.

Flood watches have been issued for Jacksonville and areas westward, including the Illinois Valley and the Oregon coast, according to Keene. They're considering one for Medford.

The rains coming Sunday stem from an "atmospheric river" pushing through northern California, and is the first of 3 storm systems bringing rain to Southern Oregon in the week ahead. The brunt of those storms is expected to hit California, but rain is in the forecast for Southern Oregon every day through next Friday.

"There's really no end in the near term," Keene said.

While the snowfall overnight was merely a dusting, it landing on top of roadways made icy by the heavy snowfall early in the week, much of which had not melted or been plowed off of side streets and less-traveled roads.

The Mt. Ashland Ski Area closed today due to high winds. Ski area managers said they made the call after reviewing a National Weather Service winter weather advisory that said high winds were not expected to subside until 4 p.m.

The ski area received another 2 inches of snow Friday night, bringing its total snowfall for the season to 138 inches. Snow depth on runs ranged from 61 inches on the lower mountain to 78 inches on the upper mountain. For an updated status on the ski area, see or call 541-482-2754.

For more information about current road conditions, see

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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