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Storm prompts blizzard warning and growing avalanche danger

The Missoula avalanche center on Jan. 6, 2022 reports high avalanche danger for the after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow in the area.
missoulaavalanche.org
The Missoula avalanche center on Jan. 7, 2022 reports high avalanche danger for the after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow in the area.

Snow continues hammering parts of Montana and more blustery weather is on the way. National Weather Service Great Falls has issued a blizzard warning Friday for the Rocky Mountain Front because of anticipated strong winds and poor visibility from blowing snow. Avalanche experts across the region are urging caution.

While snow is tapering off in parts of eastern Montana, some northwest Montana valleys could get another half foot by Friday morning

Very strong winds are up next and could lead to blizzard conditions along the Front.

Meteorologists also anticipate gusty winds and blowing snow in parts of western Montana Friday, including the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys, as well as the I-90 corridor east of Drummond.

Gusts of 30 to 40 miles an hour are possible in the valleys, with peak wind speeds of up to 50 miles per hour in some backcountry mountain locations.

The storm is dumping several feet of snow on Montana’s mountain ranges. That’s a tempting draw for backcountry skiers and snowmobilers, but avalanche experts urge caution.

The missoulaavalanche.org map of west-central Montana’s avalanche danger uniformly blinked red Thursday. That means avalanche danger is high across all upper and middle elevations. An avalanche warning is in effect through 7 a.m. Friday.

The Flathead Avalanche Center reports ‘considerable’ avalanche danger in the Swan, Flathead and Whitefish ranges, as well as in Glacier National Park. The National Weather Service warns of prolonged, powerful winds in several area mountain ranges from Friday morning to early Saturday which could exacerbate the risks.

According to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, regional avalanche danger is also rising. Forecasters urge backcountry recreationists to avoid steep local terrain in some places, saying "An error in judgment could be deadly."

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.