A snowstorm that sliced through Western Oregon this morning made driving treacherous, closed schools and created play opportunities.
Snow started falling heavily in the Roseburg area just as motorists started the morning commute.
With classes canceled, Alex Simmons, 11, and his brother, 8-year-old Gabe, went downtown with their parents, Roseburg lawyers Ann Marie Simmons and Derek Simmons.
“We really don’t have anywhere else to go right now, so we’re having a snowball fight,” said Alex, a student of Joseph Lane Middle School. “We’re crossing our fingers that the clouds don’t break.”
About an inch of snow fell on Roseburg before daybreak and another 2 to 3 inches were expected to accumulate in the valleys by this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Medford.
The winter storm was moving south and was expected to reach Medford for the afternoon commute. Some higher elevations were expected to receive 5 to 6 inches of snow today.
“It’s one of the bigger snowstorms we’ve seen probably in the last 10 years,” meteorologist Marc Spilde said.
The snow will turn to ice this weekend. Temperatures could dip as low as 10 degrees by Sunday morning in Roseburg.
“It’s going to be frigid,” Spilde said. “It’s going to get down to the low teens, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see single digits in Roseburg.”
The snow made driving at both ends of the county dicey as the storm moved down the Interstate 5 corridor.
A freight truck carrying pesticides crashed and caught fire on I-5 about three miles south of Curtin at Exit 159 at about 5:45 a.m. The accident closed both directions of I-5 until about 8 a.m. While I-5 was closed, northbound motorists were turned around at Exit 136 in Sutherlin, while southbound traffic was turned around at Exit 160 at Salt Springs Road.
An Oregon Department of Transportation de-icer truck rolled over after it was struck by passing vehicles at 8:30 a.m. on I-5 south of Exit 88 near Azalea.
ODOT spokesman Jared Castle said no serious injuries were reported in either accident.
U-Trans canceled bus routes today due to the snow, the bus system’s manager, Cheryl Cheas, said.
Cheas said she made the decision after it took her one hour and 40 minutes to drive 7 miles from her Winston home to work.
“There’s just too much ice. It looks like the roads are wet, but it’s ice,” Cheas said.
U-Trans did continue running vans that give rides to senior citizens and the disabled.
An accident on a slick hill just west of the city limits temporarily closed Garden Valley Road shortly after 7 a.m. Two sideways vehicles blocked lanes in both directions. A Douglas County sheriff’s deputy redirected traffic.
Oregon State Police Lt. Doug Ladd said troopers had responded by midmorning to dozens of fender benders and skidding vehicles.
“The roads are a mess,” he said.
Ladd said troopers expect to stay busy as roads became even more icy.
“When they freeze up, it’s going to be slick and dangerous tonight,” he said. “We are anticipating treacherous driving conditions (this) afternoon into Saturday morning.”
Douglas County sheriff’s spokesman Dwes Hutson said the agency has responded to about a dozen crashes, but were more than 30 countywide.
“Mostly just vehicles sliding off the roads or spinning out,” he said. “No serious injuries.”
Officials urged people to stay home, if possible.
Besides classes, the snow caused the cancellation of other high school activities today, including the Douglas County Invitational basketball tournament at Sutherlin High School. Eight boys and girls basketball teams were scheduled to play. Tournament organizers hoped games could be played Saturday.
South Umpqua High School canceled a countywide SAT test Saturday. The test was rescheduled for Dec. 21.
Umpqua Community College also closed today.
Canyonville Christian Academy remained open. As of midmorning, officials had not decided whether to cancel a basketball tournament scheduled for tonight at the school.
The 40th annual Douglas County Christmas Fair, set to begin today at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, opened its doors and was scheduled to continue over the weekend, despite the snow. The fair, the area’s largest holiday craft bazaar, closes at 8 tonight.
The Mercy Foundation postponed for one day the 2013 Umpqua Valley Festival of Trees’ Gala and Benefit Auction. The event will begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Seven Feathers Casino Resort.
Business was down at The Daily Grind Café, across the street from the Douglas County Courthouse.
“We had a few people in earlier. Some of the regulars have come in — not all of them,” said owner Brett Lindemann.
Absolute Motorsports salesman John Fowler parked four-wheelers outside the business at Cass and Stephens streets in Roseburg.
He said the snow might lead to thoughts of winter recreation and spark sales. He said it was tempting to get on a new four-wheeler and tear around a little. “But you got to keep ’em clean and neat,” he said.
At the Douglas County juvenile detention center on Winchester Street, children behind a high wall could be heard laughing and playing.
Detention Manager Dan Carr said the youth relished the snow. “I’m sure they’re putting together a snowman out there,” he said. “They’re still typical kids.”
In far eastern Douglas County, about 3 inches of snow fell overnight at Diamond Lake, said Rick Rockholt, Diamond Lake Resort spokesman.
“The roads are in pretty good shape,” he said. “People should be carrying chains. They aren’t required, but they should be carrying them in their trunk.”
William Baumeister, president of High Lake Sanitation, said the snow was not stopping him from collecting garbage from Idleyld Park to Diamond Lake.
Baumeister said this winter already seems harsher than last. “The last two winters have been pretty mild. This one’s with a vengeance,” he said.
Tenmile resident Wesley Harper said this morning there were 3 inches of snow near his home. His boss at First Strike Environmental in Roseburg called at 6:30 a.m. to cancel his shift.
“ODOT wanted us to stay home because there are a bunch of wrecks. They said we will worry about the cleanup tomorrow,” said Harper, 58.
Umpqua residents Susan and Ernest Bentley canceled dental appointments.
“It’s white and it’s cold, so we are not driving anywhere today,” said Susan Bentley, 62. “We have power, which is good. We haven’t heard a lot of cars go by, but we have snow on the road. The roads are definitely not clear.”
North Douglas Middle School student Rose Barrone estimated there were about 4 inches of snow at her home in Drain.
“We’ve been sledding out on the hill outside our house,” she said.
Canyonville resident Maryjean Anderson said her 110-pound Doberman puppy, Gracie, was enjoying the snow.
“It’s her first snow and she’s galloping around trying to catch flakes,” said Anderson, 61. “She is just thinking that life is especially good right now.”
Anderson said she planned to stay home today.
“I made cookies last night, and I refilled the gas bottle for heat, so I wouldn’t have to bother going outside and getting wood,” she said. “It’s just a good day to stay in the house and quilt and look outside and think life is good.”
Glendale resident Ernest Elder, 76, said he woke up today to a light sprinkling of snow. “It’s not too bad,” he said.
Reedsport resident Karin Waggoner, 70, said she woke up to about 2 inches of snow, but it was raining by midmorning and the temperature had risen to 35 degrees.
Waggoner said she enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the snow.
“I just kind of go from room to room. We don’t get that much snow, and it’s beautiful,” she said.
The flurry of morning snow did not cause any power outages, according to Pacific Power and Douglas Electric Cooperative.
A vehicle hit a power pole guy wire at the intersection of Doerner and Callahan roads in Melrose, but it did not cause an outage, cooperative spokesman John Jones said.
Roseburg resident Ruth Smith said the snow didn’t stop her 69-year-old mother, Doris Loveday, from driving herself to a doctor’s appointment and then the Roseburg Senior Center.
“She just drove off and said she’s going to Hail Mary it,” Smith said.