If the storm that will affect our area lives up to the hype it will be the strongest of the season by far. New snow totals could reach between 7” and 18” by evening. There is a winter storm warning and a blizzard warning in effect from the National Weather Service. Travel in the mountains will be especially hazardous by late afternoon. The strong southwesterly flow accompanying the cold front will have no trouble building large wind slabs across leeward slopes. New snow loads that exceed 12” will very likely cause storm slab avalanches. Both of these avalanche problems will develop on top of soft snow that could become overloaded and fail as the scales tip. Smaller avalanches that run in just the right place may trigger deeper persistent weak layers. The resulting avalanches could be very large.
With cold temperatures, snow levels are forecast to be quite low which means that lower elevation slopes that were previously well anchored may see some avalanche activity for the first time tonight. Obstacles that were easy to spot before today may become covered with low density snow and become hidden just under the surface.
Whiteout conditions could make travel in the mountains dangerous as strong winds combine with heavy snowfall rates by this afternoon.