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Major Winter Storm Impacts West Coast, Great Basin

UPDATED 7:45 PM PST, February 29, 2012

UPDATED By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Fred Allen

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Spring is just weeks away, but winter still has one last gasp left up its sleeve across the West Coast and Mountain West for the latter stages of the week. March will start more like a "Lion", rather than a "Lamb", as a fierce storm system deposits feet of snow from the Sierra Nevada to Colorado Rockies.

Bursts of heavy snow continue to pivot across the Cascades and Sierra Nevada tonight, before turning the corner and pushing deeper into the central Great Basin and Colorado Rockies. While bands of heavy rain will pelt the lowlands of western Washington and Oregon, the main attraction with this storm will be much-needed snowfall sweeping deep across the West late this week.

Snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour and howling wind gusts reaching 60 mph will create whiteout conditions, if not blizzard-like conditions across the higher passes in the Sierra Nevada. If travel is essential tonight or Thursday, make sure to check ahead about chain requirements and keep handy an emergency survival kit in case you become stranded in the elements.

Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories remain in effect through Thursday from western Oregon and the Sierra Nevada to the Wasatch Range and Colorado Rockies.

Total snowfall accumulations will range from 4 to 5 feet at elevations greater than 5,000 feet across the Sierra Nevada, to 1 to 2 feet in the Colorado Rockies. Even Utah`s Wasatch Range will measure snow by the feet later this week, while Idaho and western Montana`s Bitterroot Range pick up several inches of new snow after being scraped by low pressure.

This late February storm won`t be anything new for the storm-battered Northwest. The rain will help push Seattle above average for the month. So far, 3.61 inches have accumulated since the start of February compared to an average of 3.50 inches. Meanwhile, the soggy weather will help bring Portland, Ore., closer to average. The city is just under an inch shy of its monthly average of 3.66 inches.

Meanwhile, the snow will pile on top of the 2 to 6.5 feet already covering the ground along the Cascade spine in Washington and Oregon. The recent stormy trend has allowed the snow depth to reach 4 feet in the Idaho Panhandle and 3 feet in Wyoming`s Tetons.

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