Snow takes region by surprise (photos)

    More than 4 inches of snow fell Tuesday afternoon in Medford, canceling flights, causing slippery roads and sending schoolchildren home early.

    Like a house guest who wouldn't leave, Tuesday's surprise snowstorm baffled meteorologists, sent schoolchildren home early and canceled flights and events as more than 4 inches fell on the valley floor by 6 p.m.

    The snowstorm hitting Southern Oregon as far north as Roseburg and down to the California border closed the Medford airport's main runway at 2 p.m., according to the Jackson County Airport Authority. Afternoon and evening flights scheduled to arrive from San Francisco, Portland, Santa Barbara and Seattle were canceled or diverted, and evening flights to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco also were canceled. The airport itself remained open and flights were to resume today.

    The snow created slippery conditions throughout the region. Jacksonville Hill at Highway 238 was closed for two hours late Tuesday afternoon after multiple vehicles stalled or slid off the road. Officials closed East McAndrews Road between Hillcrest and Tamarack, one of the steepest hills in Medford, Tuesday evening.

    Schools in Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford, Phoenix-Talent and others closed early and canceled afternoon and nighttime events. An evening with Holocaust survivor Marthe Cohn was rescheduled to 7 p.m. today at Ashland Hills Hotel Grand Ballroom, 2525 Ashland St., Ashland.

    The Oregon Department of Transportation closed the access road to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area. Ski area officials advised travelers not to attempt to visit the mountain until its reopens on Thursday, as anywhere from 31 to 57 inches of snowfall are predicted over the next two days. Any back country travelers should stay below the area served by the Windsor chairlift because of “extreme avalanche conditions” forming on the upper mountain, they warned.

    Throughout Tuesday, meteorologists expected the snow to turn into rain. Meteorologist Misty Firmin said computer models showed the weather warming, but by 4 p.m. snow was still falling.

    “We have been expecting it all day to warm up but it just hasn’t,” Firmin said.

    Forecasters predict a break this morning, but another storm front is following behind it, meaning rain or snow could fall in the afternoon.

    The weather service’s Medford office has been operating without internet since Monday because of a fiber optic cable that got cut by tree damage near Springfield, said meteorologist Brett Lutz. That storm hit the Willamette Valley the hardest, stranding an Amtrak train for 36 hours and closing a 100-mile stretch of Interstate 5. The Medford office is being backed up by the Yreka and Portland locations.

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