UMATILLA COUNTY — The National Weather Service is forecasting as much as 15 inches of snow in the northern Blue Mountains over the weekend, which is expected to cause some rises in river levels around the region by Monday.
“We do expect some winter weather to come through and mainly effect the northern blue hills,” said Ann Adams, an assistant forecaster with the weather service in Pendleton. “It will take some time to reflect in the basin and the foothills.”
Adams said the Northwest River Forecast Center has projected the snowfall will bring some rises in river levels around the region, but forecasts into next week are mostly clear and dry.
The Touchet River near Walla Walla, Washington, is projected to rise above action stage and crest at 11.2 feet Monday morning, according to the forecast center. Minor flood stage for the Touchet near Walla Walla is 13 feet.
Along the Umatilla River, levels are expected to remain below action levels throughout the weekend at 8.89 feet near Pendleton and 5.24 feet near Gibbon.
This weekend’s temperatures in both the basin and the mountains are expected to be average for mid-February based on trends from the last 30 years, Adams said.
The snowfall could present challenges for those in elevations above 3,000 feet, Adams said. Risks of wind gusts and blowing snow could reduce visibility and make road travel difficult.
In a press release on Thursday, the Oregon Department of Transportation said it opened one lane of traffic to be escorted by pilot cars between milepost 26 and 37 on Highway 204, which had been closed for nearly a week due to damage from last week’s flooding.
However, additional snowfall in the area this weekend is expected to create challenges, the release said.
“Drive with caution and expect delays anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours, depending on conditions,” the release said.
According to the release, the pilot car operation is estimated to last throughout the rest of the winter and into the spring because repairs can’t be completed until all the snow in the area has melted.