The recent dry spell in the western United States has come to a close as wind, heavy snow and flooding rain begin to encroach into the region.
“Another strong West Coast storm system will deliver rounds of coastal flooding for northern and central California, along with heavy snow for the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades of Oregon and Washington,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Kevin Gilmore.
As of early Tuesday morning, flakes were flying over the interior Northwest. By the end of the day on Wednesday, much of the region can expect over half a foot of fresh snow.
“Heavy snow could result in dangerous travel conditions for cities including Billings, Missoula and Butte, Montana,” said Gilmore.
Treacherous travel can be expected along Interstate 15 through Montana and Idaho, as periods of blinding snow coat the road and drastically decrease visibility.
Strong winds will also be a factor in this region as strong northwesterly wind downslopes off the Rockies and through southern Wyoming.
On the other side of the mountains, some rain showers will sweep across coastal Oregon, potentially resulting in measurable precipitation in Eugene, Oregon, for the first time since Jan. 22.
By Wednesday, winds will pick up noticeably throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
While snow continues along a swath stretching from central Oregon through northern Wyoming, the threat for afternoon rain will shift to areas just north of the San Francisco Bay Area.
As the Pacific storm responsible for this onslaught of moisture approaches the coast overnight on Wednesday, rain and wind will start to pummel the California shore.
“Torrential rainfall will once again bring the potential for flash flooding along the California and southern Oregon coasts beginning early Thursday and lasting well into the upcoming weekend,” Gilmore said.
Localized flooding is anticipated to be most disruptive from Eureka to San Francisco, California, as well as at the foot of the higher terrain to the north and east of the San Joaquin Valley.
As with other storms over the previous weeks, road closures and power outages will be possible as the threat of flash flooding, landslides and toppled trees returns.
Areas as far south as Fresno, California, can expect waves of drenching rain throughout the day.
A few showers could even dampen downtown Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon.
Farther north in and around the cities of Eugene and Portland, Oregon, near-freezing temperatures will combine with any rain to create slick roads.
“Periods of freezing rain will cause treacherous travel conditions along the Columbia River Gorge early on Thursday, and could last into the upcoming weekend,” said Gilmore.
Thursday will also host the beginning of winter weather in California.
“Another round of fresh snowfall is likely for the Sierra Nevada beginning during the middle of the week and lasting through the weekend,” Gilmore said.
Up to 3 feet of high-elevation snow could accumulate, adding to the yards of snow pack already in place.
This same blustery and wet weather will persist on Friday from Los Angeles to Seattle and Billings to Salt Lake City.
“Extreme snowfall totals of 1 to 2 feet will fall for higher elevations of western Montana, Idaho and northwestern Wyoming by the upcoming weekend,” said Gilmore.
By Saturday, the precipitation is expected to lift out of central and Southern California.
Snow is expected to pile up over the interior Northwest through the weekend while waves of rain continue to batter the Washington, Oregon and northern California coasts.