Montana Christmas Could be Ruined by Snow & Bitter Cold
There won't be a single person singing "Let It Snow" in Montana this week, as the Treasure State gets pounded by every element of harsh, winter weather.
And from the potential for feet of mountain snow to freezing rain and deep, subzero temperatures Christmas travel is going to be especially taxing.
By Sunday morning, cold Arctic air was already pouring across the Divide, pushing temperatures in the Flathead Basin and the Kootenai into the single digits. That's combining with moisture from a Pacific low moving down out of British Columbia and generating snow.
Flathead gets hit first
Alex Lukinbeal with the National Weather Service office in Missoula says most of that snow will likely remain north of the I-90 corridor, but snow showers will be present in West Central Montana during the Monday morning commute. He says conditions could develop for snow "banding", or intense snow squalls on the freeway west of Missoula through the Lower Clark Fork Valley.
Lukinbeal says the real wallop of winter will arrive on Tuesday. That's when the entire Northern Rockies will be coping with the impacts of several inches of snow in the valleys, and higher amounts above 4500 feet. The forecast indicates the Wednesday morning commute, and cross-state travel will be especially hazardous.
Dangerous wind chills
And it's not just the snow. Lukinbeal says the Arctic air will be a major factor, with a second push of high winds through places like Badrock Canyon. Wind chills will drop to dangerous levels, and if skies clear Thursday morning, temperatures could drop to -20 in Missoula, and -30 along the Divide, with even a few locations in Eastern Montana seeing down to 40-below.
Postponing Christmas travel plans might not offer many options either. NWS is still watching for the potential of freezing rain, or more snow Friday and Saturday.
READ MORE: Missoula sees most snow since blizzard year of '96