Travelers gearing up for heavy snowfall and bad road conditions over Cascade Mountain passes Sunday can relax — at least temporarily.
And the runs at the White Pass Ski Area will remain mostly bare, as a snowstorm that was predicted to hit the area won’t arrive until early next week, forecasters say. But even the snow that’s now being forecast to fall by Tuesday may still not be enough to open the ski area.
A forecast earlier this week had predicted a storm bringing more than 10 inches of snow and winds as high as 50 mph to the eastern slopes of the Cascades in Washington and even more on the western slopes. But an updated forecast Friday shows a warming trend staving off the cold front until Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Ore.
Snow hazards along mountain passes could be replaced with slushy conditions from ice and rain.
“This weekend is kind of the warmer time frame, and then next week is when this thing starts to come through,” assistant forecaster Ann Adams said Friday.
In the Yakima Valley, temperatures are expected to reach 49 degrees today, with morning fog and a slight chance of rain. Overnight temperatures are expected to dip to about 35 degrees. In the Cascades, there is a 60 percent chance of rain, with winds ranging from 5 to 10 mph.
On Sunday, temperatures are expected to reach 55 degrees, with winds up to 20 mph and a chance of rain in the Valley. There is a greater chance of rain in the mountains — 70 percent or more — during the day and a possible mix of freezing rain and snow overnight, Adams said.
There is a chance of rain Monday as well, with temperatures as high as 45 degrees and as low as 22 degrees overnight.
“After Monday is when we start to see snow showers on mountain passes,” she said.
Either way, highway crews plan to keep a close eye on road conditions Sunday, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Summer Derrey.
“Whatever weather is coming our way, crews are prepared,” she said. “I encourage travelers to leave a little bit earlier on Sunday. I know there are a lot events going on. Thanksgiving is in the top four most-traveled holiday weekends on Snoqualmie Pass.”
Peak travel times Sunday will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., she said.
Derrey encourages motorists heading over mountain passes to slow down, carry chains and travel with a full tank of gas, warm clothes, gloves and some food and water in the event of an emergency.
“You know when they say ice and snow, we say slow and we really mean it,” she said.
Although the storm’s delay may help motorists Sunday, it isn’t doing much for the White Pass Ski Area, which has yet to open.
Thanksgiving weekend usually a draws a lot of skiers, Marketing Director Kathleen Goyette said.
And ski area crews made a strong push with man-made snow in hopes it will mix with enough new snow to open runs, she said.
“We’ve made probably the biggest effort we’ve ever made with snow-making,” she said. “There are some places where we’ve got 4 feet of man-made snow. So that’s great. Now we just need Mother Nature to do her part.”
It’s not clear if the predicted snowfall will be enough to open runs, she said. “It will help, but most likely we wont make a call on it until Thursday,” she said.
The ski area has opened on about 10 of the past 20 Thanksgiving weekends, she said.
“It’s usually a very good weekend,” she said. “So, yeah, we’re definitely disappointed to miss it, and our season pass holders are probably disappointed as well. So a lot of yardwork that has been put off is probably getting done this weekend.”