Spring storm: 3 feet of snow forecast for Oregon mountain passes, valley snow possible

The trees in the hills of South Salem were once again laden with snow on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.
The trees in the hills of South Salem were once again laden with snow on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

Three feet of snow could fall on Oregon's mountain passes and low-elevation snow will remain possible over multiple days during a spring break cold snap hitting Oregon from Thursday evening into Saturday.

winter storm warning for up to 3 feet of snow at Cascade Mountain pass levels — and around a foot of snow on Coast Range passes — has been issued through Saturday in northwest Oregon.

The snow could make travel across the mountains difficult to impossible even as spring break plans to hit the road ramp up.

In the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge, there will be multiple chances for low-elevation or valley snow during nights and mornings now to Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn Weagle said. Weagle said the odds of getting more than an inch of snow on the valley floor were about 20% to 30%, although those odds increased in the higher elevations of the Willamette Valley.


"Snow will be most likely to accumulate during the late night and early morning hours, when ground temperatures are the coolest. Temperatures are expected to gradually moderate beginning Sunday, ending the potential for lowland snow," Weagle said. "Daytime high temperatures are warm enough that any snow that did fall would not last long," Weagle said.

Major mountain snow forecast

What’s clear is heavy snow is likely to impact anyone traveling between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. This particularly applies to travel over Santiam Pass (U.S. Highway 20), Willamette Pass (Highway 58) and the Mount Hood area (Highway 26).

Snowfall above 1,500 feet is projected at around 4 to 12 inches, while around 1 to 2 feet of snow is forecast above 2,000 feet and 3 feet is forecast above 3,500 feet, the winter warning said.

"If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency," the warning said.

Coast Range highways between the Willamette Valley and Oregon Coast could see 4 to 12 inches, mainly at the higher elevations.

The heaviest snow and worst travel conditions appears to start letting up by Friday evening and into Saturday, but plenty of additional snow still is forecast for the mountain passes through Saturday.

Low-elevation, Willamette Valley snow unclear

It’s much less clear whether snow will actually fall near the Willamette Valley.

There is cold air swinging into northwest Oregon that could drop snow levels as low as 500 to 1,000 feet, which could impact the higher parts of cities such as Portland, Salem and Eugene. That low elevation snow will be possible every night and morning now to Sunday morning.

"Snow levels will lower dramatically with the cold front, falling to around 1,000 feet or possibly lower by Friday morning," Weagle said. "Accumulating snow is possible at any elevation beginning late tonight or early Friday morning. However, the chances of receiving 1 inch or more of snow remain around 20 to 30% for any given location in the interior lowlands. This includes the greater Portland and Vancouver area, Kelso, Salem, Albany, Corvallis, and the Eugene metro area. Chances are slightly higher in the Columbia Gorge, where showers will be most numerous."

Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter in Oregon for 15 years and is host of the Explore Oregon Podcast. Urness is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at or 503-399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: 3 feet of snow forecast for Oregon passes, valley snow possible