Rain, Snow, Wind for Northwest, California

March 5, 2012; 6:05 PM ET
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Wind, rain and some snow is in store for the Northwest and parts of California early this week.

A strong cold front plowing into the Pacific Northwest today will deliver wind, rain and some snow to the Northwest and parts of California early this week.

Ample moisture associated with the storm system dropping in from the Northwest will continue to track southward through Washington and parts of Oregon today and tonight, bringing a period of drenching rain to the coastal plain.

Farther inland, the moisture will clash with cold air located well aloft, producing snow in the mountains with generous accumulations expected. Snow levels will start well above the valley floors at approximately 6,000 feet.

However, these snow levels will come crashing down late today and tonight across Washington and Oregon as the cold front pushes through.

As the snow levels come down, low-elevation snow showers are likely tonight and on Tuesday morning. Light accumulations can be expected in some valley floor locations by the morning commute from Seattle down to Eugene.

Hazardous and slick driving conditions are expected through the mountains and in the passes of the Northwest through early on Tuesday when the bulk of the snow will fall. Travelers on I-90 out of Seattle could be impacted as well.

East of the Cascades, the basins will be largely free of rain and snow due to being shadowed out by the mountains. However, it is across these locations where winds will be the strongest.

Strong winds will surge from the southwest ahead of the cold front across the Columbia Basin of Oregon and Washington, in the Blue Mountains of Oregon as well as the Yakima and Kittitas Valleys. Winds across these areas will generally be between 25-35 mph with wind gusts up to 45 mph in the Basins with stronger gusts in the higher elevations.

Some rain and high-elevation snow will be possible late on Monday night over the northern mountains of California before spreading into the northern Sierra early on Tuesday. Showers will also wet portions of the San Joaquin Valley; however, many locations may remain dry.

Snowfall accumulations across the Sierra will be relatively light as the system becomes moisture starved as it pushes southward.

Strong winds will again be found ahead of the front on Tuesday across Nevada and southern portions of California. Strong crosswinds will create difficult driving conditions for those traveling in high profile vehicles. Areas of blowing dust and sand will be possible across the deserts and could lead to poor visibility.

By Wednesday, high pressure will return to the West Coast as the storm tracks into the central Rockies. This will bring a return to dry and mild weather through the second half of the week.

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