NWS warns of uncommon blizzard in Cascades and east slopes, including La Pine, Sunriver


A major winter storm bearing down on the Northwest prompted the National Weather Service in Pendleton to issue an unusual blizzard warning for Tuesday and Wednesday – not just for the Cascades, but for much of the east slopes, including the La Pine and Sunriver areas – on Sunday.

A winter storm warning is in effect from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, followed by a blizzard warning from 4 a.m. Tuesday to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Forecasters anticipate that the first storm will bring up to eight inches of snow and winds gusting to 35 mph to the east slopes, followed by a blizzard with eight inches to three feet of snow and winds gusting to 60 mph.

“The heaviest snow so far this season is on its way to the Cascades after a strong cold front sweeps across the Pacific Northwest Monday night, ushering in much colder air and more seasonable snow levels for Tuesday,” the National Weather Service warned in the late afternoon on Sunday.

“Strong and deep onshore flow will result in periods of heavy snow, strong winds, and near-zero visibility for the Cascades, especially for exposed areas above 3,500 feet,” they said, “leading us to issue a rare Blizzard Warning for the Cascade passes and above, with Winter Storm Warnings extending as low as 1,500 to 2,000 feet in the Cascade foothills.”

“By the time snow showers decrease Wednesday, elevations 3,000 feet and above will likely be measuring their snow in feet, rather than inches,” the National Weather Service (NWS) stated.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” forecasts warned. “Widespread blowing snow could reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile.” Strong winds could destroy trees.”

NWS warns of uncommon blizzard in Cascades and east slopes, including La Pine, Sunriver

“Travel should be restricted to emergencies only” when the snowstorm strikes, they say. “If you must travel, bring a winter survival kit.” Stay with your vehicle if you become stranded.”

According to NewsChannel 21 Chief Meteorologist John Carroll, “We will be dealing with potentially paralyzing weather conditions Tuesday through Wednesday.”

“The winds will be worst in the Cascades, but in Sunriver and La Pine, travel will be severely impacted,” the meteorologist said. “Highway 97 south of Bend will be very dangerous.”

A blizzard warning signifies expected conditions of persistent wind or frequent gusts to 35 mph and significant falling and/or blowing snow severely decreasing visibility, frequently to less than 14 miles, according to Carroll.

Other parts of Central Oregon are also expecting heavy snow and strong winds this week. Bend, for example, could get eight to sixteen inches of snow between Tuesday and Wednesday (that was the afternoon estimate – the NWS later Sunday revised it to 4-8 inches for Bend those two days), with further snow expected Thursday and into next weekend. Winds in Bend could reach 43 mph on Tuesday.

The NWS Pendleton weather map shows a rainbow of storm and wind advisories throughout Central and Northeast Oregon, as well as Southeast Washington.

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