A winter storm watch for heavy snow and high winds has been issued for Oregon mountain passes from late Saturday evening through Sunday and into Monday.
The weather could impact travelers heading between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon after Thanksgiving. But it will also give Oregon ski areas a boost as they prepare for potential openings next week.
A total of 12 to 24 inches of snow could fall mainly on mountain roads including Santiam Pass (Highway 20), Government Camp (Highway 26) and Willamette Pass (Highway 58), according to the National Weather Service in Portland.
While showers will start to arrive Friday night, snow levels should stay mostly above pass levels through Friday and Saturday — with much of Saturday dry.
Oregon weather forecast:Mountain snow could impact Oregon Thanksgiving travelers on return journey over passes
But late on Saturday, heavier rain and cooler temperatures will gradually bring snow levels below pass levels, with snow falling to around 3,000 to 3,500 feet Saturday night and Sunday, before dropping even lower Sunday night and into Monday.
High winds and blowing snow is also forecast, mainly Sunday and into Monday, with winds reaching 40 mph.
“Heaviest snow Sunday afternoon through Monday morning,” NWS wrote in the warning. “Travel could be very difficult.”
Next week could see significant low-elevation snow, with snow possible in the Cascade Foothills and potentially flurries impacting the Willamette Valley, although it’s too early to project how much or how low snow will fall.
Mount Hood Meadows, Mount Bachelor and Timberline Lodge have announced plans to open ski operations in some capacity next week if the forecasted snow arrives as expected.
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. 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.