The Usual Suspects

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As the snow level drops in the Rogue Valley…

…You can spot skiers and snowboarders, rocking back and forth on their toes – nearly vibrating in their shoes – eager to land on a mountain. Salespeople are beaming, busily dusting off space heaters, stacking cozy comforter displays and touting the added value of double knit, long underwear.

And then there are the long faces, the ‘droopy dogs’; people who dread winter, cursing with frozen breath at every cold and wet snowflake that touches the ground.

They are ‘The Usual Suspects’ — stuck in the snow on Interstate 5.

“A big snowstorm really tests motorists’ patience,” said Jerry Marmon, ODOT District Manager for Jackson and Josephine counties. “High traffic volumes and low driver experience makes it a challenge to keep the road open when a snowstorm hits, especially on the Siskiyou and Sexton passes.”

The Siskiyou Pass presents a unique challenge. When a storm hits southern Oregon, the agency’s highest priority is this ten-mile stretch on I-5, due to its importance as a freight route and high traffic volumes.

ODOT maintenance crews provide 24-hour coverage during winter. To keep the roads open, their arsenal includes snowplows, pusher trucks, de-icer chemicals and sanding materials.

Storm-related delays and short-term closures on the Siskiyou Pass are common during winter; however, motorists are often ill-equipped for winter travel.

“We see people unprepared for a long wait in their car,” Marmon said. “They travel I-5 in shorts and tennis shoes. No gloves, no flashlight, but there they are, bent over in the snow at night, trying to chain up.”

Winter storms can happen suddenly. According to Marmon, drivers who don’t carry chains or traction tires contribute to the long delays. Sometimes it only takes one truck to spin out to close the highway.

“Our maintenance crews prepare for winter and we ask the public to do the same,” Marmon said. “If you have to travel during a storm come prepared for the worst. Expect to encounter long delays and chain requirements.”

To avoid being one of ‘The Usual Suspects’ on Siskiyou Pass this winter, check out the pre-trip tips for winter travel available online at www.oregon.gov/odot/comm/winterdriving.shtml.

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