The first significant storm since before Thanksgiving is expected to move into Southern Oregon today, bringing heavy rains to the Rogue Valley and likely enough snow for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area to open by noon Thursday.

The first significant storm since before Thanksgiving is expected to move into Southern Oregon today, bringing heavy rains to the Rogue Valley and likely enough snow for the Mt. Ashland Ski Area to open by noon Thursday.

The snow flurries and dusting of the Cascades forecast for today will give way to a front expected to drop up to two feet of snow Wednesday on Mount Ashland, where the ski area has been closed since Jan. 2 because of a dearth of snow.

Three of the ski area's four lifts will be in operation and the regular Thursday-through-Monday skiing schedule will go into effect Thursday if storms materialize as predicted, General Manager Kim Clark said Monday. The After School Ski Program also will start Thursday, he said.

The ski area opened Dec. 16 and ran for two weeks before closing, sending skiers and snowboarders into their snow dances ever since.

"I've been saying we're one juicy storm away from opening and this is the one we've been waiting for," said Rick Saul, the ski area's marketing director.

Snow groomers will be on the mountain Wednesday, when Saul expects the snowfall to come at 2 inches per hour.

"We'll be packing it down as it falls," Saul said.

A series of systems was forecast to move through the region into early next week, with Wednesday's the strongest, bringing heavy rains to the coast and up to three inches of rain on the valley floor, according to the National Weather Service.

When Wednesday's storm is over, seeing an excess of 3 feet of new snow on Mount Ashland "is not out of the question," weather service meteorologist Dan Weygand said.

"If people get up to the mountain, there will be snow waiting for them — and plenty of it," Weygand said.

The snow level will start off around the 1,500-foot level early Wednesday, and rise to about 6,000 feet by Wednesday night, Weygand said.

That means the valley could start seeing rain tonight and get as much as three inches of rain through Thursday, Weygand said.

No inland flooding was forecast late Monday, but the rains will cause quick rises to creeks and streams in the region, he said.

The Coast Range in Curry County and west-facing slopes in western Josephine County will get the brunt of the rain and high winds, Weygand said.

The Coast Range could get up to 10 inches of rain during this string of systems, but only the Coquille River in Coos County is forecast to inch toward flood stage, Weygand said.

After bottoming out two weeks ago at 31 percent of average, the Rogue-Umpqua drainages are listed at 51 percent of average snow and rainfall so far this winter, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.