Cascades due a big hurrah of snow

In lowlands, colder temps expected to set in, linger

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Old Man Winter may take a parting shot at the Northwest this weekend, but he appears to be aiming high.

A late-season system expected to move over the region will bring strong winds and huge snow totals to the mountains as much as 2 feet in the Cascades by Saturday night but little chance of flurries making their way down to lower elevations.

The shift could bring Vancouver one of its last extended cold spells of the winter. High temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-40s this weekend and early next week. Overnight lows should land mostly in the 30s, but dip as low as 29 degrees on Sunday night into Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Moisture patterns don’t look like they’ll cooperate to produce much low-elevation snow. The snow level will drop to about 1,000 feet Saturday night, but any moisture in the area will only be showers, said Kirsten Elson, a meteorologist with the

weather service in Portland. Sunday night may be colder, but forecasters predict rain to taper off before the thermometer drops below the freezing mark.

“Most of the rain comes through first, and then the snow level drops,” Elson said.

Mountain forecasts, however, are a different story.

The southern Washington Cascades could see 11 to 22 inches of snow pile up by the end of the day Saturday, according to a weather service statement released Friday. Washington’s Willapa Hills can expect 2 to 4 inches. Strong winds could gust as high as 50 mph in places, according to the weather service.

For Vancouver, it’s mainly cold rain on tap this weekend. Skies should clear for a mostly sunny Monday, according to the weather service, before rain returns Tuesday and Wednesday. The alternating weather patterns bring moisture and cold, Elson said, but the two don’t always overlap.

Cooler-than-average temperatures are expected to linger well into next week, according to the weather service. In other words, don’t expect a sudden change of seasons anytime soon.

“No sign yet of spring,” Elson said.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.