While winter has been in full swing across the eastern two-thirds of the nation since seemingly late November, the West has had a hard time finding much in the way of extreme cold or snow.
That will all change on Thursday and persist right through the weekend as a series of storm systems aimed at the West Coast crashes into an arctic high pressure sitting overhead. Snow will start falling across Portland in the afternoon on Thursday and continue, in waves, throughout the day on Saturday.
Accompanying the snow will be strong winds from the east blowing out of the Columbia River Gorge. Areas such as Troutdale, Multnomah Falls, Cascade Locks and Corbett, all in Oregon, will likely see blizzard conditions and nearly impossible travel beginning in the afternoon Thursday and lasting into Saturday.
Those expecting to travel on I-84 through the Gorge should be prepared for very hazardous conditions, such as blinding snow, whiteouts, extreme cold, road closures and the possibility of becoming stranded.
Similarly, those who will head south on I-5 will need to be ready for potentially life-threatening weather, especially when traveling through higher elevations south of Eugene.
Snowfall in Portland will likely range from as little as 1 inch to as much as 6 inches in eastern parts of the city. In the Cascades, snowfall of at least 6 inches is likely, with amounts exceeding 1 foot in the highest elevations.
Farther south into northern California and the Sierra, heavy snow will also fall. Accumulations will generally ranger from a few inches in the elevations above 2,500 feet to over 6 inches in the highest elevations.
In terms of the ongoing drought that has gripped parts of the West for years, the moisture with this system will only make a small dent in the huge precipitation deficits that have been racking up.
In many areas along the West Coast, anywhere from 18 to as much as 36 inches of rainfall is needed to bring an end to the drought, and that does not appear likely any time soon.