Winter storm upgraded: 1-3 feet of snow expected for mountain passes

SEATTLE -- The winter storm watch issued for the Cascades has been upgraded to a winter storm warning by the National Weather Service, with up to three feet of snow expected in the passes through late Tuesday night.

Heavy snow is possible above 2,500 feet, which includes the Mount Baker Ski Area, Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, the Crystal Mountain Ski Area, Paradise on Mount Rainier and White Pass.

As of 3:50 p.m. Monday, traction tires were advised at Stevens and White Pass.

The National Weather Service Seattle tweeted that pass travel Tuesday would be "very difficult to impossible."

The Washington State Department of Transportation said they would partner with Washington State Patrol to increase enforcement of chain requirements over the passes. A ticket for not having chains when required could cost between $136 and $500.

"When collisions block lanes on the pass, we have to close the roadway in order to get emergency personnel and tow trucks to the scene," WSDOT spokesperson Megan Lott said in a press release. "This is much more challenging to do on a mountain pass highway than on a regular highway, and it can take hours."

Tom Pearce, a spokesperson for WSDOT, said if drivers need to be ready if they're headed to the passes.

"This is our first big snow of the year," he said.

The storm is a welcome sight for skiers and boarders. Both Stevens Pass and Mt. Baker Ski Resort plan to open Wednesday.

The system will bring rain and wind gusts to the lowlands Tuesday.

Wednesday has some dry periods before another wet and gusty system comes in.

Thursday and Friday will be wet, gusty and with more mountain snow. Lows will be near 40 all week long.