PORTLAND -- The first day of spring arrived Wednesday with strong winds and heavy rain, and snow expected by evening in the Cascades.

The rain is really coming down this morning and will through mid-morning before tapering off a bit to showers, said KGW meteorologist Nick Allard. However, some of those showers could be pretty heavy and possibly even turn to thunderstorms.

Allard said travelers over highway passes should prepare for heavy rain during the day, with the snow level down dropping to about 2,500 feet Wednesday evening through Thursday morning. Up to 10 inches could fall above 3,000 feet and three to four inches below that.

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A Special Weather Statement was issued for the Portland Metro area that warned of a storm bringing wind gusts along the Willamette Valley. Gusts of up to 60 mph were expected along the coast.

A Winter Weather Advisory remained in place for the northern Oregon Cascades Wednesday afternoon, with the snow level expected to drop substantially by Thursday morning.

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While the possibility of snow may worry some commuters, skiers were ecstatic. Resort managers at Timberline Lodge and Mt. Hood SkiBowl said the timing couldn't be better, with Spring Break just around the corner.

They are predicting ten to 20 inches of new snow the next two days, so that would be a spectacular skiing start to Spring Break, said Hans Whipper, at SkiBowl.

We hope for blue skies and big snowstorms. That is what everyone loves to see, added Brian Reed at Timberline.

A dry spell and warming trend will begin over the weekend.High temperatures in the valleys could climb close to 60 degrees Monday and Tuesday.

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