Published 8:31 PM EST Feb 21, 2019
Another system of heavy snow is expected to hammer Oregon’s mountain passes this weekend.
A winter storm watch is calling for 2 to 3 feet of snow on mountain passes centered around Santiam and Willamette passes.
No snow is expected on the Willamette Valley floor or Columbia River Gorge.
That said, the system won’t just impact the high mountains. Snow levels are currently projected to drop as low as 1,500 to 2,000 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
The system continues a February that has brought a major influx of powder, taking Oregon’s snowpack from poor to near normal or even above normal.
Santiam Pass and Willamette Pass
Light snow is expected to begin Friday evening, with 2 to 5 inches expected Friday into Saturday morning.
The major dump is expected Saturday night into Sunday night, when a possibility of 2 to 3 feet will fall from elevations ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 feet.
That means travel over U.S. Highway 22/20 over Santiam Pass and Highway 58 over Willamette Pass will see very difficult travel conditions.
“Total snow accumulations of up 3 feet possible — heaviest snowfall from around Mount Jefferson to Willamette Pass,” the National Weather Service warning said.
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The Mount Hood area will also get plenty of snow, but slightly less. Around 1 to 2 feet of snow is expected at Government Camp, with higher mountains at the ski areas.
Travel on Highway 26 is likely to be challenging.
Good news for ski areas and snowpack
The heavy snow from February storms has already meant great conditions at ski areas across Oregon, and that won’t change.
But the most noticeable impact has been on Oregon’s snowpack, when went from 72 percent of normal in early February to 96 percent of normal after the series of deluges.
There’s a good chance this storm puts Oregon ahead of normal.
Snowy fun: Guide to winter recreation at Santiam Pass sno-parks
Travel challenges should be serious.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the NWS alert said.
Before leaving home, it’s suggested people visit TripCheck.com for road conditions.
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Almost normal snowpack
The latest snowpack readings show levels close to normal across Oregon, and well above normal in Eastern Oregon.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 11 years. To support his work, subscribe to the Statesman Journal for $0.99 per month.
Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.