The National Weather Service Office in Missoula released a You Tube briefing on Friday to inform viewers of the upcoming major winter weather event.

According to Meteorologist Ryan Leach the initial impact will be in eastern Idaho moving into the western Montana mountains with heavy snow and strong winds affecting northwest Montana.

“The first wave will start tonight (Friday) where we’re going to have a lot of snow coming into the mountains,” said Leach. “If you’re going to be driving up over Lolo or Lookout Passes we’re looking at about a foot of new snow, so you might experience some travel delays there. That also goes for heading over Marias Pass. This first wave will put a little bit of snow in the valleys, maybe an inch or two, but we’re expecting a lot of snow up in the mountains.”

Leach said part two of the storm system will arrive by the close of the weekend.

“The next wave comes through on Sunday night and into Monday,” he said. “That’s going to be a very big deal for folks up in northwest Montana, especially around Kalispell and Columbia Falls. It will be a typical arctic front, so it’s going to have a lot of wind with it. It doesn’t matter how much snow because there will be so much wind there will be blowing and drifting snow, poor visibility and just outright dangerous conditions in northwest Montana.”

Leach said the winter storm will make way for very cold temperatures throughout the region.

“Looking into next week, this will usher in the cold air sitting up in Alaska, some with minus 50 degrees,” he said. “It won’t be that cold when it gets here, but it is going to be extremely cold with temperatures in the single digits both above and below zero. Considering how mild our winter has been so far, it will come as quite a shock. That will also lead to below zero temperatures into the middle and end of next week. So, the door will slam shut and it will be winter.”

Leach had good news for Missoula.

“For the most part, Missoula will be spared the worst of the storms because right now it looks like the winter storm will stay in the north,” he said. “It will get cold, but much more gradually than up in northwestern Montana. We will pick up a few inches of snow here and there. There may be some travel inconveniences, but there won’t be the feet of snow that we’re expecting up in the mountains. Missoula will still feel like winter, but not the impact they’ll have in the Kalispell and Columbia Falls areas.”

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