Chain requirements put in place for snow-packed Siskiyou Summit

Treacherous driving conditions over the Siskiyou Summit forced ODOT to require chains be installed on nearly all vehicles Wednesday night. (Genevieve Grippo/KTVL)

Drivers heading along Interstate 5 had to contend with treacherous road conditions through the Siskiyou Summit Wednesday night, forcing the Oregon Department of Transportation to require chains on all vehicles except those with four-wheel drive.

"It's a real hassle," said James Kim, a truck driver who was making his regular route from Portland to L.A. when he had to stop and prepare his semi for snow-packed roads.

His was one of dozens of trucks stopped on the interstate's shoulder between Talent and Ashland, emergency lights blinking.

While the conditions weren't necessarily unexpected for this time of the year, Kim said the delay cost him three to four hours of drive time-- a big set-back for truck drivers, he said.

"I'm sure some people will just sleep in their trucks," said Kim. "But some people, like me... I will go over [the summit]. I'll try to go as much as I can tonight."

As conditions worsened, ODOT employees were stationed outside of Ashland, blocking one lane of the road. They had to check each driver's vehicles to make sure they were prepared for the trip ahead.

On Trip Check, the department warned of severe weather conditions and delays of anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours.

An employee at the chain checkpoint expected the restrictions to persist overnight and into the morning, but did not think the road would need to be shut down completely.

"It mostly depends what happens on the California side," he said.

Patchy fog made the already slippery roads even more dangerous. According to Trip Check, the snow came down "hard and continuously" into Thursday morning. Snow plows were out in swarms, as about 34 inches of snow piled up on the side of the I-5, ODOT reported.

Conditions were not as poor further north at the Sexton Summit, where ODOT reported 11 inches of roadside snow, flurries, and patches of ice on the road. Drivers were told to carry chains or traction tires, but further restrictions were not in place as of Wednesday night.

Drivers heading to Klamath Falls via Highway 140 also faced winter conditions, as the road was packed with snow. ODOT required chains on vehicles towing or single drive axle over 10,000 gross vehicle weight. Additional chain requirements were also put in place between milepost 21 and milepost 41.

Additional Oregon road conditions and chain requirements can be found on California road conditions can be found on the CalTrans website.

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