If you've been hoping for snow in the Rogue Valley, there's a good chance you'll get your wish just in time for the start of the holiday season.
An arctic cold front is drifting toward Southern Oregon, bringing chilly air and a sharp drop in snow levels Sunday night. Because its arrival will coincide with the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, weather and travel officials are warning motorists to be cautious on the roads during the drive home.
"Don't be in a hurry," said Gary Leaming, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman. "Definitely leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Just be in the mindset that you'll eventually get there, but you may get there a little late."
Snow levels are expected to drop down to about 3,000 feet on Sunday night, still above the valley floor's elevation of 1,300 feet. That means rain for Medford and Ashland Sunday night, which is predicted to change into a mix of rain and snow Monday night, with eventual snow on the valley floor by Tuesday.
"Once it gets down there, it's going to stay awhile," said Jay Stockton, National Weather Service meteorologist.
In the meantime, a stagnant air mass continues to linger over Jackson County, prompting air quality officials to restrict wood burning.
The temperature inversion has caused Jackson County Environmental Quality to issue a no-burn advisory for wood stoves that are non-certified. No visible smoke is allowed for burns in certified stoves. National Weather Service's air stagnation advisory remains in effect until 10 a.m. Friday. This means pollutants in the air could reach unhealthy levels that could affect those with severe respiratory ailments.
High temperatures will drop into the mid to high 30s Tuesday and Wednesday.
Weather officials expect the Siskiyou Pass will be hit by snowfall, along with several of the lower-elevation passes along Interstate 5 and coastal ranges.
"It's going to affect travel," Stockton said. "It's going to be a hit-and-miss, on-and-off kind of thing."
And with gas prices wilting to a three-year low, 6 million motorists are expected to hit the roads along the West Coast, according to AAA estimates. Additionally, Oregon State Police, Washington State Police and the California Highway Patrol will be on high alert, implementing their Arrive Alive on I-5 campaign through the holiday weekend. An increased police presence will be on the lookout for speeders, drunken drivers, and traffic violations such as not wearing seatbelts.
ODOT officials are preparing for the snow and ice.
"We're ready," Leaming said. "Currently, we do have our night crews on for the winter."
Leaming said motorists should pack water, snacks, blankets, necessary medications and games for young passengers. Tire chains should also be in the vehicle. ODOT officials also urged drivers to use www.tripcheck.com to see current road conditions before driving.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.