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West's Mountains Brace For More Heavy Snow, High Winds

UPDATED 7 AM MDT, March 18, 2012

UPDATED By WeatherBug Meteorologist, John Bateman

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Even though arriving late, winter will continue to rev at full throttle through early next week across the Desert Southwest, Mountain West and Rockies. Snow will pile up to the tune of feet, while high winds create hazardous, if not impossible travel across the West.

A complex late-winter storm will carve a path across the Great Basin and emerge along the western High Plains later today, with a trailing cold front producing bursts of heavy snow from the Desert Southwest`s higher terrain to the northern Rockies. The most intense snow will sweep across the Arizona Mountains today, with another batch of heavy snow being flung across the northern Rockies as low pressure intensifies tonight and Monday.

Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories are in place for the Sierra Nevada, the Arizona and Nevada Mountains, the San Juan and Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, the northern and central Rockies, the Wasatch Range and Idaho`s Bitterroot Range. Additional snowfall totals will range from 3 to 6 inches across the Sierra Nevada, to 1 to 2 feet of fresh snow from northern and eastern Arizona all the way to Idaho`s Bitterroot Range.

The snow won`t be the only weather issue for those across the Great Basin, Mountain West and Rockies. The late-winter storm will become tightly wound, delivering a punch of fierce wind gusts to the northern Rockies. At the same time, the storms trailing cold front will bring one final burst of powerful winds from the Desert Southwest into the Colorado Rockies today through Monday.

High Wind Watches and Warnings and Wind Advisories are in place for southern California, and from northern Arizona and much of New Mexico northeastward to the Colorado Rockies and western Nebraska. Powerful gusts approaching 60 mph will be strong enough to topple trees, produce power interruptions and send lose lawn ornaments airborne.

The combination of heavy snow and high wind will also mean travel will be difficult, if not impossible over the higher terrain of the West. If travelling Interstates 15, 25, 40, 70, 80 and 84, call ahead about chain requirements and potential road closures or restrictions. Make sure to keep a winter weather survival kit composed of an extra flashlight, water and food in case of an emergency.

Though the worst of the storm will end for the West Coast late today, a deep cold pool of air in its wake will remind residents that winter isn`t ready to leave just yet. Temperatures will be well-below normal for much of next week, reaching the 40s and 50s in the valleys and 20s and 30s in the higher terrain.

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