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Wintery Blast Is Headed For Western Montana

A weather system bringing cooler temperatures, snow and high winds is expected to hit western Montana this weekend.
National Weather Service Missoula
A weather system bringing cooler temperatures, snow and high winds is expected to hit western Montana this weekend.

The spring weather that brought Montana plenty of sunshine and afternoon highs in the upper 60s this week is about to be replaced with something very different. National Weather Service Meteorologist Travis Booth says a blast of wintery weather moves into Montana tonight.

"We have some cold Canadian air that’s gonna come over the Divide and bring us some snowfall, also some strong winds and the resultant cold temperatures that will last into early next week."

Saturday’s daytime highs could be almost 25 degrees colder than Friday's.

"So tomorrow we’re looking at high temperatures only in the upper 30s to low 40s. Similar story for the high temperatures on Sunday. Of interest also will be those morning lows. Sunday morning and again on Monday morning we’ll have low temperatures in the teens for the valleys. Those will be near record lows for the date."

That means newborn livestock will be at risk and sensitive vegetation will need to be protected.

Winds will start to pick up Friday evening as the system drops into Montana. High winds will spread toward the southwest through Saturday morning.

"Gusts into the 40s would be pretty common for several areas. We do have some concern for localized tree damage for the Flathead Lake area; Flathead and Mission valleys in particular."

The system could dump 6 to 12 inches of snow along the Continental Divide overnight. The Weather Service says that snow could lead to reduced visibility and slick roads along the divide. Billings may get up to 5 inches by the time it wraps up Saturday night. Great Falls could see 7 inches. The snow will taper off Saturday evening, leading to just a trace of fresh accumulation in the valleys of west central Montana.

A gradual warmup is forecast for next week, with daytime highs creeping back up into the 50s by Tuesday. Booth says our normal high temperatures this time of year are in the 60s.

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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