At least 2 inches of snow will fall in Roseburg Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Medford.
“We’re really confident about this system. It’s going to happen, and we’re going to get snow,” meteorologist Ken Sargeant said today. “We’ve got pretty much a solid 2 inches forecast for the Roseburg area, but that would probably be the minimum at this point.”
Sargeant said it’s possible there may be as many as 4 inches. The snow could begin falling before sunrise or may not arrive until after the morning commute.
This morning, Roseburg’s low temperature hit 20 degrees, coming close to 1972’s record of 18. Even colder weather is on the way.
Sargeant said Douglas County is in for a cold snap more characteristic of the upper Midwest than Southern Oregon. The frigid temperatures will continue through at least Monday, he said. Sunday’s predicted low is 12 degrees.
A similar system hit Douglas County during the same dates in 1972.
“Ordinarily this would be a record-breaking event, but because this is happening at the same time as it did in 1972, it’s not going to break any records,” he said.
The weather service earlier predicted snow would begin late tonight, but Sargeant said a storm coming in from the north is moving a bit more slowly than computer models predicted. He said once it hits the cold air mass, which entered the county Monday, snow will fall.
Sargeant said the roads will become increasingly treacherous Friday and through the weekend as snow is first melted by vehicle tires and then turns to ice due to unusually cold air and surface temperatures. Sargeant said the weather service’s Medford office is conducting online conferences with school districts and businesses in hopes of persuading them to close Friday.
“It doesn’t do any good if everybody’s at school or work and can’t get home,” he said.
A spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation said crews are ready to respond to snowy, icy conditions on highways in Douglas County.
“We’re ready. We’ve got our crews set up on a 24-hour schedule,” ODOT spokesman Jared Castle said.
He said crews will pay particular attention to areas above 1,000 feet, including Sexton Pass and Rice Hill on Interstate 5.
Douglas County Public Works Director Robb Paul said his crews have spent the past week putting down magnesium chloride de-icer on potential trouble spots. The solution sticks to the road for a week and lowers the temperature at which moisture will turn to ice.
Crews can head out with snowplows as early as 4:30 a.m. Friday, but Paul cautioned that clearing the roads can take time. The county has just eight plow trucks and the main roads will get plowed first.
“We’re not going to be at everybody’s front doors as soon as it snows,” he said.
He said crews will focus on trouble spots like Tiller, Lookingglass Road, Coos Bay Wagon Road and Goodrich Highway in the Sutherlin area.
Roseburg Public Works Director Nikki Messenger said city crews have already de-iced bridges and hilly areas and do not have snowplows. She said they will use sand to improve traction on city roads.
Castle said commuters should plan to get up early Friday, check the news before leaving and prepare for the possibility of longer-than-usual commutes.
Messenger urged drivers to leave plenty of space between their vehicles and those ahead of them, since it takes longer to stop on snowy, icy roads.
Representatives of all Douglas County school districts that regularly hold Friday classes said they will wait until early morning to decide whether schools will be closed for the day.
The Roseburg School District will make a decision by 5:30 a.m. Friday. North Douglas, Riddle, South Umpqua, Sutherlin and Yoncalla school district representatives said a decision would be made by 6 a.m. The remaining school districts do not hold Friday classes.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or email@example.com.