PORTLAND -- A storm front moving into the Willamette Valley threatens to bring as much as five inches of snow into the Portland and Vancouver Metro areas Thursday, according to KGWmeteorologist Nick Allard.

He expected flakes to start falling around noon in Portland with one to two inches in the city and five inches in the southern suburbs, he said.

Portland Public Schools will be closing for early release at 1 p.m, but students may remain through 3:30 if their parents are not able to get them earlier, according to PPSspokeswoman Christine Miles. She explained that PPS wants to make sure that no students are sent home in the cold alone.

An alert on the PPSwebsite read:

Parents are encouraged to pick up their children as soon as possible. Students will be kept safe and warm at school until parents arrive. Buses will run on snow routes at normal times. Walkers will be held until the regular release time. PPS is erring on the side of caution to make sure students get home safe.

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for Thursday morning through Friday morning for the entire Portland and Vancouver Metro areas. The alert warned of snow and blowing snow, combined with powerful east winds.

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A second storm was setting up to hit Portland even harder on Saturday.

We could see snow or freezing rain all day long on Saturday, Zaffino said. Parts of the mid valley may get six to 12 inches of snow and the Columbia River Gorge could be very bad.

Zaffino added that the length of time that each type of precipitation lasts will be key.

It's possible Portland will see two to six inches of snow and a quarter to a half-inch of ice, he said.

The NWS also issued a Wind Advisory for the Portland Metro Area, effective through Thursday at 10 p.m., which warned motorists to be especially careful on the Interstate 5 bridge and the Glenn Jackson Bridge.

NWS Special Statement: Snow in the valley Thursday, freezing rain this weekend

On Mount Hood, skiers should also expect a snow dump this weekend, with up to a foot falling at ski areas. The cold weather allowed resorts to make snow throughout the week. But people headed to Mt. Hood should be careful.

On Sunday, temperatures will warm above freezing and it will be all rain. Rain and mountain snow will continue on and off next week.

In Portland, city officials turned off area water bubblers in anticipation of the freeze and road crews were preparing for icy road conditions.

We are spot treating with de-icing all week throughout this cold snap, said Kimberly Dinwiddie of the Oregon Department of Transportation. Warming shelters started opening Tuesday in anticipation of the cold.

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