Winter Blast Moving Into Western Montana
Parts of Montana are about to get a winter blast the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over a decade. Northwest Montana could get intense snowfall, but everyone can expect drastically colder temperatures for the foreseeable future.National Weather Service Missoula predicts potentially dangerous winter weather conditions will unfold in three distinct phases over the next several days.
Phase one starts this evening with a shot of fresh snow. 24-hour amounts will range from up to 20 inches at Lookout Pass, 15 inches at Lolo Pass to four inches each in Big Fork and Kalispell. Missoula should only pick up a trace amount to a couple of inches max.
Meteorologist Ryan Leach says that first wave of snow tapers off late Saturday. Round two starts Sunday.
“Looking at eight to 12 inches in Kalispell and Libby and northwest Montana in general. That might be a little bit on the high side of the snow, but it’s much more likely we’ll see those snow amounts up there,” Leach said.
Even Missoula, which hasn’t picked up much snow this year, could get up to four inches by Monday morning.
Meteorologists caution anyone planning to enjoy the fresh backcountry powder to first check local avalanche conditions. Two Montana snowmobilers were killed on New Year’s Day in a slide outside of Seeley Lake. Three skiers died this week in an avalanche at an Idaho ski resort.
Leach says blizzard conditions are likely in northwest Montana later this weekend.
“It’s going to be really bad for the Monday morning commute. Historically the best analogue we can find for similar conditions would be January 28th, 2008," Leach said. "Along the continental divide is where we’re going to have the worst conditions. We’re expecting wind chills there at about negative 40 degrees. What we’re seeing now for potential cold air is colder than the 2008 event was.”
The six to 10-day outlook is calling for above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures. Given Montana’s relatively mild winter so far, meteorologist Ryan Leach describes the forecast as a "shock to the system."