Whether you love it or hate it, snow is on the way.
Weather forecasters say the Tri-Cities' first big snowstorm of the year is expected to arrive sometime today, bringing up to 8 inches of flakes for local residents' joy or frustration.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the Mid-Columbia this after-noon through Wednesday evening. Forecasters expect light snow to start today and increase in intensity over-night and into Wednesday.
The storm also is likely to bring 10- to 20-mph winds.
The heaviest snows are expected Wednesday as temperatures drop to the low 30s, but warmer air moving through the area Thursday -- when temperatures may climb back into the 40s -- could mean rain later in the week, according to the weather service.
The storm is expected to pelt the rest of the Northwest, with as much as 6 to 12 inches of snow predicted for Seattle and other lowland areas of Western Washington.
"It's a juicy storm," Danny Mercer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, told The Associated Press. "It's not going to be hit and miss. It's going to be filling in everywhere, picking up and being quite heavy everywhere."
The Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia area could get 1 to 3 inches today, while Bellingham and areas north of Seattle could get 3 to 7 inches, Mercer said.
And Wednesday, widespread heavy snow and below-freezing temperatures are likely throughout much of the state, the AP reported.
Most of Oregon was under some form of winter weather alert through Wednesday afternoon. The most severe weather was anticipated in the Columbia River Gorge and the Hood River Valley, where 5 to 7 inches of snow was possible, said the AP.
Snow creates perhaps the biggest complications for drivers, and the Washington state Department of Transportation recommends keeping at least half a tank of gas in a car during bad weather, and keeping an emergency kit on hand for road trips.
A basic winter survival kit should include a flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots and a first-aid kit, according to the department's website.
Shaun Crow, with Tri-Cities Battery & Auto Repair in Richland, said the shop has a few sets of studded tires in stock, but most people who wanted them bought them as soon as the state allowed them to be used on roads late in the fall.
"This late in the year, it's hard to get your hands on snow tires," he said.
In addition to snow tires or chains, drivers preparing for wintry weather should get their coolant levels and tire pressure checked, and get other fluids topped off.
"The coolant is a big one because that's where your heat comes from," Crow said. "You don't want coolant leaks -- that will be really bad."
Another tip he offered is to make sure a car battery is charged and isn't more than five years old so the car will start properly and the driver won't get stranded.
"Anything over five years on a battery is borrowed time," Crow said.
Dave Berquitz, manager of REI in Kennewick, said the outdoors equipment and clothing store Monday was busy with people buying down jackets, hand warmers, gloves, hats, wool socks and other cold weather gear.
"I think everybody must have heard the weather report," he said.
Shoppers also have shown some curiosity about sleds, but no one has bought one yet, he added.
Customers also haven't been buying "Yak Traks" -- a traction device that goes on the bottom of boots or shoes to help walkers avoid slipping and sliding on ice.
"We assume that's coming," Berquitz said.
Or for those a little more adventurous, REI and some other local sporting goods stores rent snowshoes.
But some people prefer staying indoors and avoiding snow as much as possible.
For the homey types, Barnes & Noble staff offered up a few recommendations for good reads.
Jerrica Fowler, spokeswoman for the Kennewick store, said a popular nonfiction book among Tri-City readers is American Sniper, the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
"It's a military history, edge-of-your-seat, adventure book," Fowler said.
People continue to read popular novels The Hunger Games and The Help, especially with filmversions either on the horizon or already released.
Fowler said another good winter-time read is Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, a biography of the famous Russian ruler.
Or for a local flavor, she suggested the novel Winter Garden by Walla Walla author Kristin Hannah. The book tells the story of two daughters discovering their mother's tragic past against the backdrop of a Wenatchee orchard.
All of the books are available as e-books for people with e-readers who don't want to venture out to pick up their latest read.
"They can come in and get a hard book, or just curl up with their Nook device," Fowler said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org