EUGENE, Ore. - First, the good news: recent storms erased a dry spell and ushered in a glorious holiday weekend of powder skiing in the Oregon Cascades.
Forecasters said the storm headed to the Northwest from Alaska and Canada could deliver up to 2 to 3 feet of new snow this week.
Now the bad news: those same storms could bring snow down to sea level across Western Oregon.
"Although there is still some uncertainty as to how much snow will fall, confidence is increasing that temperatures will be cold enough for accumulating snow down to sea level by Wednesday night," the National Weather Service said Tuesday. "Based on the latest information, it appears snow totals of several inches will be possible along the coast and in the interior valleys." >>> Automated School Closure Reports
The Coastal and Cascade mountains of Oregon are under a winter storm warning through Thursday afternoon. A storm warning means severe winter weather is likely, and motorists should only travel in an emergency, the weather service said.
Forecasters have also issued a winter storm watch across a wide swath of Western Oregon and Washington and the Columbia River Gorge. A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
The watch starts Wednesday afternoon and continues through Thursday morning, but snow could start falling as soon as Tuesday night, forecasters said.
"Snow will start overnight Tuesday into Wednesday with some chance for accumulations that may make for a slippery Wednesday morning commute, particularly the further north you are," forecasters wrote in issuing the storm watch. "Then, a possible transition back to rain around midday Wednesday before the heaviest snow begins Wednesday afternoon and lasts through midday Thursday before tapering off to lighter snow showers through Friday morning."
Snow will be heaviest at the higher elevations, but forecasters said a trace to 3 inches is possible by Wednesday morning, with the potential for another half foot through Thursday afternoon.
The worst road conditions are expected overnight Wednesday into Thursday, but the Wednesday morning commute could be slick in spots, forecasters said.
The weather looks to get drier - but colder - on Friday as a colder but drier air mass moves into the Pacific Northwest.
"High temperatures may struggle to reach the freezing mark even in the lowest of elevations Friday," forecasters warned.