Rain And Avalanches Bring Highway Closures Across Western Montana
Update 2/10 7:00 a.m.: Both lanes of I-90 between St. Regis and Lookout pass have reopened. Standing water on highways across western Montana. Drive carefully!
Update 9:20 p.m.: The Montana Department of Transportation is reporting that the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 are now open between St. Regis and Lookout pass. The eastbound lane remains closed due to standing water on the road. Heavy rain and melting snow continue to accumulate on the road. Find the latest road closures and conditions from the Montana Department of Transportation.
Major highways in western Montana and Idaho are closed today following a significant warming trend. A dramatic change in weather that brought warmer temperatures, rain and avalanches to western Montana and Idaho has closed major highways and blocked traffic.Interstate 90, from St. Regis to Lookout Pass, has been shut down since around 10:00 a.m. due to heavy rains and standing water. A train partially derailed in the town of Valier earlier this afternoon, blocking traffic on Montana Highway 44. A detour is in place.
Another avalanche along the southern border of Glacier National Park forced a closure to all but local traffic on U.S. Highway 2 between Essex and East Glacier since 9:00 a.m. And a portion of U.S. Highway 12 near the Colgate Licks area in Idaho has been closed since last night due to avalanche danger.
"We’re getting that wet, heavy snow in the mountains with even rain on top of it now as the warm air pushes in and getting that heavy, wet snow on top of cooler, drier snow is a prime scenario for having the heavy snow slide down the mountain and start avalanches," says Lance Van de Boogart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula.
Van de Boogart says rain and snow will continue to stream across western Montana until Saturday morning, when a dry, cold air mass will arrive.
"Hopefully that will help with a lot of these avalanche issues," says Van de Boogart.
It will also help slow snow melt, which has led to standing water across many Montana highways.
Van de Boogart says people should look for alternative routes and take extra care while driving.