Mother Nature gave Montana a real one-two punch of cold weather yesterday, and forecasters say it's going to get even colder tonight.
First, a blustery low-pressure system moved into the state yesterday afternoon. The winds died down and the skies cleared early this morning. That allowed those temperatures to plummet.
National Weather Service meteorologist Trent Smith says Missoula reached a low of 31 degrees, which was only one degree off from the record low for this date of 30. Many northwest Montana communities dipped into the 20's this morning. The Noxon area reached 17 degrees.
Smith says most of the state can expect another round of calm winds and clear skies tonight:
"And we're actually looking at the temperatures to drop into the mid 20's in many valley locations, including Missoula tonight. So we have a freeze-warning out for a good chunk of western Montana."
Smith says people may want to disconnect their residential hoses and take measures to protect above-ground irrigation systems. He adds outside pets will also need appropriate shelter.
Those flower and vegetable gardens are at risk as well. Beverly Gutman owns Missoula's Marchie's Nursery. Gutman says a little bit of simple prevention can protect those crops you've nurtured all summer:
"Definitely for your tender crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes - they should be covered, or possibly picked and brought in. The season might be over with. They're saying so far we might be getting down to about 29 (degrees). With frost blankets or some type of covering, you'll probably be ok. I don't recommend plastic as much, but it is something that can be used...but you want to be sure that you take it off."
She says plastic coverings tend to draw moisture that can come in contact with the plant.