Southern Oregon braces for 'historically strong' storm amid Thanksgiving travel

Snow, rain, and extremely high winds are expected throughout the area as many prepare to head out for holiday travel.

Posted: Nov 25, 2019 2:44 PM
Updated: Nov 25, 2019 4:21 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Just as many Oregonians prepare to set out for holiday travels, meteorologists are warning of a more significant late-fall storm than the area has seen in years.

"There's increasing potential for an historically strong low pressure system to make landfall near the Southern Oregon coastline Tuesday afternoon," the National Weather Service posted early on Monday morning. The agency warned travelers to hit the road on Monday and be finished by 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“If people can leave today, now is the time,” said Oregon Department of Transportation district manager Jerry Marmon. “Travel Tuesday into Wednesday is forecast to be the worst, with conditions improving for Thanksgiving Day.”

TripCheck is the place to go for current road conditions in Oregon

Even for those that plan to stay put, the outlook could be grim. Pacific Power said that potential heavy snow and high winds could cause downed trees and power lines throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California.

“Snow and high winds can knock down trees and powerlines causing power outages,” said David Lucas, Pacific Power's vice president of operations. “We are staging additional crews and equipment in preparation for the storm projected to impact Southern Oregon and Northern California mid-day Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon. With the storm having the potential to affect holiday celebrations, we are pulling out all the stops to mobilize or crews as needed.”

The utility company said that every home or business should have an emergency outage kit that includes a flashlight, battery-operated radio and clock, extra batteries, non-perishable foods, manual can opener, bottled water, and blankets.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office sent out a similar list for travelers, with the addition of blankets or sleeping bags, extra warm clothing, and a shovel.

"Let a friend, neighbor or family member know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If you have a problem along the way, help can be sent quicker along your predetermined route," the agency said.

RELATED: Local landmark elevations and snow levels

StormWatch 12 meteorologists predict accumulating snow and slick travel on Monday along the Cascades and Siskiyous, with the stronger storm due to arrive on Tuesday morning. Snow levels are expected to drop to nearly 2,000 feet by Tuesday morning, then down to 1,000 feet by the evening.

"By the afternoon on Tuesday, travel will become increasingly difficult across our area due to periods of heavy snow and increasing winds," Chief Meteorologist Matt Hoffman said.

Gusts of up to 70 mph are possible inland, and up to 100 mph along the coast. As Pacific Power warned, power outages and wind damage will also be a major concern. Winter weather impacts will be felt particularly strongly in the local valleys from Tuesday night into Wednesday.

"Even in the best road conditions, the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year," ODOT said in a statement. "Expect delays, plan ahead, allow extra travel time and know before you go."

The Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport said that it had snow removal equipment and personnel on standby should the valley see snow accumulations. So far, they have yet to see any major cancellations or delays to or from other airports.

For the latest forecast and alerts from StormWatch 12, visit our Weather page here.

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