A fierce cold front will sweep into Ashland Friday evening, bringing below-freezing temperatures and as much as a foot of snow in 24 hours in the mountains.

A fierce cold front will sweep into Ashland this evening, bringing below-freezing temperatures and as much as a foot of snow in the mountains in 24 hours.

The Medford National Weather Service has issued a severe weather advisory beginning at 7 p.m. tonight, when the storm is expected to hit, and ending the same time Saturday.

"It is a pretty strong system that's coming though and it's a stronger cold front than we've had in a very long time," said Kelly Sugden, meteorologist with Medford National Weather Service. "It will be a dramatic change."

Temperatures are expected to fall to about 25 degrees as the arctic air moves over Ashland, Sugden said. The storm will also bring 20 to 30 mph gusts tonight, making the air feel as much as 10 degrees colder, according to forecasts.

Snow levels will rapidly drop from about 5,000 to 1,500 feet between 7 and 10 p.m. tonight, turning rain to snow in Ashland and covering the city overnight in several inches of powder, Sugden said.

Western slopes of hills and mountains will see the most snow, which will continue to fall most of Saturday, the Medford National Weather Service said. Locations above 2,000 feet could see as much as a foot of snow by Saturday evening, according to forecasts.

Snow showers will likely continue Sunday and possibly early next week, and temperatures will stay between the low 30s and low 20s through Wednesday, Sugden said.

"After this big front, we'll remain in this unsettled pattern with cold air over us. It's going to be cold and cloudy and grey," he said.

On Thursday, temperatures will warm slightly and Ashland will see highs in the upper 30s to 40s, Sugden added.

Motorists should use extreme caution when traveling on mountain passes and should watch out for blowing snow, he said. Drivers should carry snow chains and a survival kit in their cars in case they get stranded, according to the extreme weather advisory.

Travelers in Oregon can call 511, a free hotline, or log on to www.TripCheck.com to check road conditions.

As of press time, no roads had been closed, but the Oregon Department of Transportation said some routes may be shut down.

"Please be prepared to delay your trip through the mountains this weekend because, if the situation requires, highways may need to be closed to protect public safety," Doug Tindall, ODOT deputy director, stated in a release.

Sugden said he recommends drivers avoid high elevations during the storm, if possible.

"I just want to convey to readers to be careful because it's such a change from what we've been having. Hopefully no one will get caught off-guard," he said.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.