POCATELLO — National Weather Service officials are predicting a “parade of winter storms” for the region in the days ahead.
They say a series of storms moving through the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest could bring several inches of snow to central and Eastern Idaho, making travel difficult to impossible in some areas.
“If this impressive series of storms stay as forecast, snow removal resources and operations will be pushed to their limits for a consistent four-day period,” according to a winter storm watch issued on Thursday afternoon. “The Idaho transportation system at the state, county and municipal level will undergo severe impacts, especially during the upcoming weekend.”
A winter storm watch is in effect from Friday evening through Tuesday afternoon for the Sawtooth Mountains and Stanley basin, the Wood River basin and surrounding mountains, and the eastern highlands from Macks Inn and Island Park, south to the Bear River Range on the Utah border. Officials say Emigration Summit, Grace, Soda Springs, Swan Valley, Victor, Ashton, Tetonia, Driggs, Island Park, Stanley, Ketchum and Sun Valley could be affected among other cities.
“Total snow accumulations of 3 to 9 inches every 24 hours for three days, except 5 to 14 inches every 24 hours on ridge tops and passes possible for as many as three days,” according to the watch. “Winds will likely gust as high as 35 mph.”
A Winter Storm Watch is also in effect for Friday evening through Saturday evening for the Eastern Magic Valley, Snake River Plain, Mud Lake Desert and Southern Hills. Officials say a total of 3 to 7 inches of snow could fall in those areas. Shoshone, Mud Lake, Idaho National Laboratory, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Pocatello, Blackfoot, American Falls, Shelley, Fort Hall, Burley, Rupert, Inkom, McCammon, Downey, Lava Hot Springs, Malad, Preston, Montpelier, Dubois, Spencer and other nearby cities areas could be affected.
Some snow has already fallen in East Idaho this week. Blackfoot and Inkom both got a couple of inches between Wednesday and Thursday morning, said Dawn Harmon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Pocatello.
Pocatello got a trace amount on Wednesday and had received just shy of an inch by Thursday afternoon, she said.
Weather conditions have already caused some challenges in recent days.
The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center has reported multiple avalanches this week.
Three skiers were caught in an avalanche in the back country near Grand Targhee Resort on Tuesday, according to the Teton Valley News. Only one was fully buried, and the group was able to rescue that skier.
The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center listed avalanche danger as “considerable” in the Teton, Togwotee Pass and Greys River areas on Thursday.
Eastbound Highway 33 was closed at the Wyoming State line, three miles east of Victor, on Thursday. Idaho Transportation Department officials said an avalanche prompted that closure.
Idaho State Police issued an alert because of winter driving conditions in Bonneville, Jefferson, Madison, Fremont and Teton counties on Wednesday. At that time, they advised motorists to use extreme caution if travel was necessary.
Harmon has similar advice for motorists in the days ahead. She urges them to pay close attention to the weather, especially if the watches currently in effect are elevated to advisories or warnings.
Those who must travel should ensure their cars are in proper working order and carry emergency supplies with them, she said. Harmon also reminds drivers to slow down and stay a safe distance away from other vehicles.