Image: Snow in Interstate 90
Elaine Thompson  /  AP
Trucks and other motorists make their way off of Interstate 90 where the pass ahead was closed Tuesday near North Bend, Wash., due to avalanche control work. The pass is about 50 miles east of Seattle.
msnbc.com
updated 1/17/2012 9:33:51 PM ET 2012-01-18T02:33:51

A major winter storm was headed for the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday night and into Wednesday, with the Seattle area expecting up to a foot of snow and mountain passes two to four feet.

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Local media and bloggers covered the forecasts and preparations throughout the day, while some schools canceled classes both Tuesday and Wednesday.

"With the possibility of significant snowfall, we are urging residents to be prepared," Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement.

The Seattle Times initially described it as a "megastorm" in its print edition but then revised it to "Less snow in the forecast? It's 'evolving'" on its website later in the day.

Chris Dolce, a meteorologist with weather.com, wrote that travel could become "dangerous or impossible" by Tuesday night in areas including Seattle, Olympia, Bellingham as well as Portland, Ore.

The National Weather Service was forecasting 1-2 inches of snow Tuesday in the Seattle area, and then 5-10 inches on Wednesday. Areas farther south of Seattle could see two inches on Tuesday and up to 14 inches on Wednesday, it added.

"Keep in mind, average annual snowfall is only 2.4 inches in Portland and 5.9 inches in Seattle, so these amounts are very significant for these metro areas," Dolce added. "According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, Wash., snow amounts from this storm could exceed anything seen since November 1985 at Sea-Tac airport."

The Seattle area saw several inches of snow over the weekend, and then a lull on Monday and overnight into Tuesday morning for most of the region.

Dolce said that "several feet of snow" was expected to pile up in the Cascade and Bitterroot mountains.

Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades east of Seattle was shut down for much of Tuesday for avalanche control.

PhotoBlog: Snowy in Seattle — winter storm snarls traffic

According to Dolce's forecast, snow was likely to spread well inland across the interior Northwest into the Northern Rockies. Spokane, Wash., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Kalispell, Mont. and Missoula, Mont., will all deal with substantial amounts of snow and rough travel conditions, weather.com reported.

Late Monday, a lost 66-year-old snowshoer was rescued after spending two freezing nights on Mount Rainier near Seattle.

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Video: Washington, Oregon brace for snow blast

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