Snow hinders traffic, shuts schools

February 26, 2007 11:00 pm

The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Some rural schools were closed and other classes were delayed Monday after southern Oregon residents awoke to another shot of snow. The storm also downed power lines and forced a temporary closure of Interstate 5.

More snow was predicted for Tuesday in the Rogue Valley as a low pressure system stalled in the Gulf of Alaska sent waves of wet, unstable air into the Northwest, meteorologist Mike Stavish said at the National Weather Service in Medford.

High in the Cascade Range, Crater Lake National Park closed access roads until at least Tuesday after getting 34 inches of snow. Another 24 inches was expected.

Up to 3,900 customers in the Applegate and Provolt areas lost power, but most saw the lights return by midmorning, said Monte Mendenhall of Pacific Power.

The snow was good for mountain snowpacks that serve as a natural water storage system, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Water content for the Rogue-Umpqua river basins went from below 70 percent to 88 percent of average.

In Josephine County, schools closed in Cave Junction, Wolf Creek and Williams, while the rest of the Three Rivers School District opened doors two hours late. Grants Pass schools opened on time.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed Interstate 5 for two hours late Sunday night between Hugo and Glendale to get plows on the Mount Sexton, Smith Hill and Stage Road passes, said spokesman Gary Leaming. Chains were required Monday morning going over the Siskiyou Summit.

"Our message to motorists is ‘Carry chains, food and water,'' Leaming said. "It's winter."

With snow at high elevations expected through today, conditions aren't likely to get better. Sections of the Redwood National and State Park on Hwy. 101 already have snow and should get more today. The highway's section south of Klamath past Prairie Creek State Park also is expected to see snow, compounding slippery conditions and accumulation that has been piling up since Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature finally dumped new snow by the feet at Lake Tahoe resorts Monday while causing traveling headaches for mountain travelers. Chains were mandatory, and westbound traffic on Interstate 80 was halted altogether at one point late Monday afternoon at the Nevada-California line just west of Reno.

That was because of numerous spin outs reported on the highway, the California Highway Patrol said. CHP did not know when the road would reopen.