Montana Public Radio

Dangerously Cold Weather Headed For Western Montana

Dec 28, 2016

A winter storm system could bring more snow and bitterly cold temperatures across western Montana on Sunday.

The storm could produce 2 to 4 inches of snow in the valleys and higher amounts in the mountains. But the real danger is a blast of very cold arctic air.

Bob Nester is a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Missoula:

"This arctic air actually originated in Siberia and it’s moving down through Canada and we’re talking, by Tuesday morning, low temperatures across western Montana of 10 to 15 degrees below zero at the least with some of our colder spots, such as Butte and Seeley Lake and some of our higher valleys reaching 30 or 40 degrees below zero."

The cold spell is predicted to last all of next week with many areas struggling to reach single digit temperatures.

Nester says this kind of system is rare:

"We haven’t seen this type of pattern across the region for probably 20 years."

The cold weather might also produce ice jams which could cause flooding once temperatures warm again.

Next week’s storm is the latest in a string of systems that has kept western Montana — and Missoula in particular — unusually cold and snowy. Nester says that this past December was the tenth coldest on record in Missoula and the city hasn’t seen this much snow since 1996.

"This stubborn arctic air that’s in Canada just refuses to go away and is expected to remain across the region at least through next weekend on January 8th"

[Correction: This post was updated on 12/29/16 to fix transcription errors in one of Bob Nester's quotes. We regret the error.]