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Snow in the forecast

The rain may turn to snow in the lowlands of Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon early next week. And although forecasters say they still are uncertain, there is potential for a “major” snowfall by midweek.

At the very least, expect a good freeze as the week progresses.

Colder air is expected to move into the region that could “bring snow levels down to the valley floor. An increasing number of forecast models are suggesting additional disturbances from the Gulf of Alaska (that) would spread moisture into that colder air. This will raise the chance for snow down to the lowest elevations next week,” according to a special National Weather Service statement.

The agency’s Thursday forecast suggests that the Kelso- Longview area could see a slushy mix of rain and snow early in the week. Rain and snow will start at 11 p.m. Sunday and turn to plain old snow after 5 a.m. Monday. But the snow level will be 800 feet, dropping to 400 feet later Monday, according to the Weather Service.

There’s a chance of lowland snow showers at least into Wednesday, and temperatures will dip into the upper 20s Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the agency says. Tuesday and Wednesday daytime high temperatures may not exceed the freezing point, which is a rarity for the lower Columbia River bottomlands.

The extent of accumulations, locations and timing of snowfall still are uncertain, “but confidence is increasing in the overall threat of snow next week, even for the lowest elevations,” the Weather Service statement concludes.

At least one other prominent forecaster agrees with the government prognosticators, and takes it a step further.

“The University of Washington model forecast for the 24-hour snowfall ending at 4 p.m. Monday shows significant (2-4 inches) snow spreading across Portland and Southwest Washington, with Seattle on the edge. There is a lot of uncertainty where the edge will be,” Cliff Mass, a retired UW atmospheric sciences professor, wrote on his popular weather blog Wednesday.

Thursday, an updated blog said the early week snowfall “are just the preliminaries for what could be a major snow event over Western Washington and Oregon on Wednesday and Thursday. Very cold air will be in place, and a potent weather system will be approaching our coast.

“Wow. This has potential. But I have learned from hard experience never to get excited about snowstorms that far out. I have a personal 120-hour rule. If the forecast is beyond 120 hours, I try to keep my emotions in check and prevent myself from stocking up on milk and bread,” Mass wrote.

While lowland snow is relatively sparse in the Kelso-Longview lowlands, early January tends to be the most likely for snowfall.

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