HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Residents in western Montana dug out from more than 2 feet of snow Tuesday as a winter storm pounded the southern part of the state, closing major roadways and prompting backcountry avalanche warnings.
Missoula set a new daily snowfall record with 8.6 inches (22 centimeters) on Monday, breaking a mark that had stood since 1917.
But that was overshadowed by snow totals in Bitterroot Valley, with 26 inches (66 centimeters) in Stevensville and 25 inches (64 centimeters) in Hamilton.
The snow and extreme cold shut down Ravalli County offices except for emergency and essential personnel and it threatened livestock amid calving season.
"Extreme cold is never great for young new calves," said Montana State University Ravalli County Extension Agent Patrick Mangan. "And when you layer on wind with the cold, it just makes it that much more horrible."
The area got a break from the snow on Tuesday, but more was in the forecast this week.
"What is two to four inches on top of 26? It's just insult to injury at this point," National Weather Service meteorologist Leeann Allegretto told the Missoulian.
In southwestern Montana, the storm raged on as snow mixed with 40 mph (64 kph) wind gusts to create whiteout conditions and contribute to dozens of accidents reported to the Montana Highway Patrol.
Officials shut down a 15-mile (24-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 15 near the Idaho border, along with two other major roadways that lead over mountain passes to reach Idaho.
Eastbound traffic on Interstate 90 was temporarily halted east of Reed Point Tuesday morning because of a multi-vehicle accident, and transportation officials warned of severe driving conditions along that main artery from Three Forks to Park City.
State transportation officials restricted travel on I-90 and on other ice-and-snow-covered roadways to emergency traffic only from Reed Point west to Three Forks and from Big Timber north to Judith Gap, the Billings Gazette reported.
The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center issued backcountry avalanche warnings for mountain ranges across southwestern Montana and into Idaho. Natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely, according to the warning.