Rare blizzard warning for Oregon passes amid extreme snow forecast

A rare blizzard warning was issued by the National Weather Service due to projections of extreme amounts of snow Tuesday and Wednesday on Oregon mountain roads and passes.

Up to 4 feet of snow and winds 55 to 75 mph could create whiteout conditions around Cascade mountain passes including Santiam Pass (Highway 20), Willamette Pass (Highway 58) and the Mount Hood area (Highway 26).

Snow is not likely in the Willamette Valley until possibly later in the week.

More: Hoodoo Ski Area announces opening on Wednesday

Blizzard could bring whiteout, downed tree limbs

Although snow is forecast through Monday at the Cascade Range passes, the blizzard warning goes into effect at 4 a.m. Tuesday. Between the two days, the amount of snow could range from 1 to 4 feet, NWS said.

“The combination of heavy snow and strong winds will occasionally result in whiteout conditions Tuesday through Wednesday,” NWS wrote in the warning. “Poor visibility and rapid snow accumulation will result in dangerous conditions for even the most experienced of drivers.

“Strong winds and heavy snow may bring down tree limbs, leading to power outages. Increasingly cold and windy conditions will make the outdoors hazardous for the unprepared,” NWS added.

While the heaviest snow is forecast above 3,000 feet, snow levels are forecast to drop to 1,500 to 2,000 feet by midday Tuesday, which is likely to impact mountain roads in the Coast Range and Cascade Foothills.

Extended freeze, impact on I-5

The storm could impact driving even on Interstate 5 in southern Oregon.

Snow is forecast at elevations to potentially reach Sexton Summit on I-5 and is likely to impact Siskiyou Summit on I-5 at the state line with California.

The upside is the storm should bring Oregon’s mountain snowpack nearly up to normal levels after an extremely small amount of snow earlier this winter. All Oregon ski areas are expected to open during the coming week, although travel to reach them could be hazardous.

Long term models show cold air sticking around

The latest longer-term forecasts show the cold and wet conditions sticking around. Oregon’s 6-10 day forecast, and the 8-14 day forecast, continue to show odds tilted toward colder and wetting conditions.

Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.


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