MTPR

As Winter Storm Hits Montana, Road Conditions Deteriorate, Schools Close

Feb 25, 2019

The winter storm dumping and blowing snow across much of western Montana is forcing school closures and creating severe driving conditions.

National Weather Service Missoula issued a telling tweet Monday afternoon.

"It looks like #spring has been cancelled until further notice."

As a blizzard barrels through parts of western Montana, below-normal temperatures are expected for the foreseeable future.

A winter storm is leaving impressive snow totals in its wake; at least 14 inches recorded so far in Hamilton, 8 inches in Lolo, and a foot of snow in Anaconda. Only a couple of inches have accumulated so far in Missoula, but the 23 mile-per-hour winds combined with the steady snow are making for blizzard-conditions

Meteorologist LeeAnn Allegretto says this system is going to pick up a significant head of steam this evening.

"No one’s going to want to hear this, but from about Lolo south we’re looking at the potential of another foot to 14 inches – that’s in addition, not total. In Missoula we’re going to be in the 6 to 9-inch range," Allgretto says.

Up to 7 additional inches are possible in Helena and Butte tonight.

The snow should taper off before midnight and Allegretto says Tuesday will be our one break.
 
"Meaning Wednesday we’re looking at another chance of snow; Wednesday afternoon into Thursday – early morning – we’re looking at another 2 to 4 inches in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys and from about Alberton to Bonner."

Temperatures will hover in the single digits tonight, with wind chill values expected to plummet to -15 F in places like Missoula where wind gusts could top out near 40 miles-per-hour.

I spoke with Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Timothy Templeton at about 4:30 Monday afternoon.

"The temperature is 4 degrees. I’m near the Wye on I-90. The roadway is so cold that all this blowing snow is getting pressed down and turning into ice," Templeton said.

The Missoula County Office of Emergency Management advises travel only if 'absolutely necessary'.

"The road are awful right now and they’re not going to improve for a little while."

If travel is necessary, Templeton urges drivers to top-off their gas tanks, carry extra supplies like blankets and spare food, and to dramatically slow down.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center forecasts a very high likelihood of below normal temperatures for much of the nation right through the first two weeks of march.

A Rare School Closure In Butte & Anaconda

The storm raging through western Montana will keep students in public and Catholic schools in Anaconda and Butte home from school tomorrow.

The snow day will be a novel experience for Butte School District Superintendent Judy Jonart.

"I can’t remember, frankly, the last time a school was closed in Butte."

Jonart says the last winter closure might’ve been in the early 1990s, when temperatures dropped -50 F.

This time it’s heavy snowfall that has administrators concerned over student safety.

Food service trucks have been getting stuck delivering lunches to schools.

Four or five school busses were also unable to navigate blizzard conditions Monday. Students had to wait aboard those vehicles while they were freed from the drifts.

Other drivers were late getting to bus stops.

"Which makes kids sit out there on the bus stop by themselves. All of those things play into the safety of students," Jonart says.

East Middle School also had some pipe breakages that led to issues with the heating system in a small section of the building. Technicians are working on getting that up and running.

Meanwhile, snowfall is expected to continue through the week. That’s an issue for the school district, which doesn’t have many of its own plows. Jonart says it’s difficult to keep parking lots, crossings and sidewalks clear on days like today.

"Every school got hit, so we were all struggling. Students were getting stuck in parking lots, as were parents."

Jonart says cancelling school Tuesday earned a lot of 'thank yous' from students and parents. They should enjoy the day off while they can. Jonart says class will likely return to session Wednesday.

School delays and closures:

Alberton - Classes and busses will be delayed by 2 hours Feb. 26.

Anaconda - Closed Feb 26.

Bitterroot College - Closed Feb 26.

Butte - Closed Feb. 26.

Darby - Classes will be delayed by 2 hours Feb. 26.

Drummond - Classes will be delayed by 2 hours Feb. 26.

Florence Carlton Schools - Closed Feb. 26.

Frenchtown Schools - Busses and classes will be delayed by 2 hours Feb. 26.

Hamilton - Closed Feb. 26.

Helena -

  • The Helena School District will delay the start of school by two hours on Tuesday Feb 26.
  • Elementary Schools – Instructional day begins at 10:30 a.m.
  • Middle Schools – Instructional day begins at 10:05 a.m.
  • Helena High & Capital High Zero Period classes begin at 9:25 a.m.
  • Helena High & Capital High First Period classes begin at 10:20 a.m.
  • PAL Alternative HS classes begin at 10:20 a.m.
  • Access for Success classes begin at 10 a.m.
  • Bus routes will be delayed exactly two hours.

Lone Rock - Closed Feb. 26.

Potomac - Classes will be delayed by 2 hours Feb. 26.

Ravalli Head Start - Closed Feb. 26.

Stevensville - Closed Feb. 26.

Victor - Closed Feb. 26.