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Heavy Rain, Snow, & Severe Storms Possible in the West

18 May 2020, 6:00 am

A strong area of low pressure will continue to dig into next week across the West, spreading heavy rain and high elevation snow across the region that could accumulate to more than six inches in some higher elevation areas, including the Sierra Nevada.

As the cold front moves across the Pacific Northwest today (Monday), thunderstorms will be possible which could be strong or severe.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a marginal risk (1 out of 5) for severe storms across portions of Idaho and Montana on Sunday. Large hail and damaging downdraft winds appear to be the main hazards with stronger storms. See our forecast model snapshots farther down the page for timing on those potential storms.

Winter weather alerts remain in effect through this evening (Monday) for the possibility of heavy accumulating snow. Elevations above 6500 feet could see accumulations of 5-9 inches, with higher totals along the higher peaks and ridge tops. Snow levels could drop to 6000 feet at times, which means impacts to travel are possible in the mountain passes.

Snow is expected to accumulate to more than 6 inches over the higher elevations of California, Nevada, and Idaho. Strong winds are also expected over the Sierra into parts of Western Nevada.

As the trough of low pressure digs south along the West Coast, a cold front will move onshore with moderate to heavy rain and a few thunderstorms. The bulk of the heavy rain is likely to continue to push east into Tuesday.

This trough will be slow to progress to the east, which will keep cooler weather and rain chances around in the region through at least the first half of the following work week. Rain totals could accumulate to an inch or two in some areas with isolated totals possibly topping 3 inches.

The moisture, of course, is much welcomed in a part of the country that’s experienced increasing levels of drought in recent weeks and months. Some parts of the Northwest are experiencing “extreme” drought, the second-highest level of drought on the United States Drought Monitor’s official categorization.

The next week will feature more rounds of rain and mountain snowfall, though it’ll be increasingly confined to the Pacific Northwest. Places like Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon could be in line for an exceptionally soggy week – which’ll be good news for the ongoing drought situation across the region.

Stay with WeatherNation for the latest on the busy West.

About the author

Rob grew up in South Florida, where daily afternoon storms and hurricanes piqued his interest in meteorology early on. That interest was fostered by his teachers and his father, who one time brought him onto the roof of their home to watch a funnel cloud move through the Everglades several miles away. ... Load MoreYears of filmmaking and tv production in high school gradually pushed him toward broadcast meteorology at Florida State University, where he joined and eventually led the student run daily weather show. After graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology, he began his career at KESQ in Palm Springs, California before heading to KFSN in Fresno and WLOS in Asheville, North Carolina. He has covered a diverse array of extreme weather events, including haboobs and flash flooding in the desert, extreme snow in the Sierra, hurricanes, and Appalachian ice storms. He also enjoys telling stories and reporting about weather issues.

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