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'Feet' Of Mountain Snow Predicted This Week

A precipitation map as of December 26, 2017
Natural Resources Conservation Service
US Department of Agriculture
A precipitation map as of December 26, 2017

Heavy snow is predicted for parts of western Montana this week and that could significantly impact travel plans.

This week’s weather forecast is complex and has a lot of moving pieces. Long story short: Some west-central Montana valleys could get close to a foot of snow by Friday. The mountains could get double that.

National Weather Service meteorologist Genki Kino says two to three inches of fresh snow is possible Wednesday.

The Seeley-Swan-Upper Blackfoot regions, could get the heaviest accumulations.

“And then we’re going to get another system that moves in on Thursday," Genkis says, "and we could see anywhere from two to five inches.”

Lookout and Lolo Passes could get closer to a foot.

Here’s where things get a bit more complicated.

A plume of warm, moist, subtropical air known as ‘the Pineapple Express” will move onshore sometime Thursday and spread across Idaho and Montana through Saturday:

“And then we also have this arctic air mass that’s going to slide down from Canada,"Genki says. "Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty for Friday on where that arctic air mass is going to meet that tropical air to set up that heavy snow. It still looks like somewhere around West central Montana. Friday into Saturday there’s a lot of good potential for heavy snow.

“We could see anywhere from six to 12 inches of snow depending on where that boundary sets up," Genki says.

That’s six to 12 inches in the valleys. Northwest Montana could pick up half that. The mountains, though, could get close to two feet. Just don’t expect, dry champagne powder.

“Yup. It definitely looks like it’s going to be wet and heavy and wherever that boundary sets up," Genki says, "it’ll be really heavy.”

The snow is expected to taper off by Sunday.

The Weather Service says Western Montana’s precipitation is about normal for this time of year. Three inches of liquid precipitation has been recorded since October first.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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