Strong winds and snowfall hit western Montana | Local News

Increasingly strong winds and sub-freezing temperatures grip Missoula as winter maintains its grip on western Montana.

Damaging winds swept through northwest Montana on Monday, starting in Missoula and winding their way to the Canadian border. Around 12:30 p.m. in Missoula, the wind speed was 49 miles per hour, said NWS Missoula meteorologist Ryan Leach.

NorthWestern Energy began responding to calls for tree branches down on power lines Monday afternoon around 3 p.m. No major outages were reported in Missoula Monday afternoon, said NorthWestern Energy public relations specialist JoDee Black.

Black encouraged anyone who sees a down line to report it to local authorities. Assume the downlines are active and dangerous and stay away, she added.

Heavy snowfall was expected to hit the Bitterroot Valley, but is expected to largely avoid the Missoula area.

As of Monday afternoon, Hamilton had amassed 4 inches of snow, Leach said. The Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains are estimated to have received 8 to 10 inches of snowfall Monday through Tuesday morning. Lost Trail Pass and MacDonald Pass have an 80% chance of getting 8 inches or more. Lolo Pass and White Bird Hill Summit are estimated to be impacted 4 to 6 inches.

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The Missoula Valley is expected to avoid the bulk of the snowfall. Local meteorologists guessed Missoula wouldn’t see more than about an inch, Leach said.

He said the wind speed in Missoula is expected to decrease Monday evening. Leach advised people to wear appropriate clothing and layer up if they plan to venture outside this week, saying temperatures in the 20s combined with wind threaten possible hypothermia.

Lows in Missoula are estimated to be in the teens on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures in Missoula will rise back into the 40s later in the week, with no wind and a chance of snow in the forecast for Friday and Saturday.

The weather events are caused by a large low pressure system heading along the Washington-Oregon border and into Idaho, Leach said.

Other parts of the state, including Helena, are expected to see more snow and freezing temperatures throughout the week. A winter storm warning for Lewis and Clark and Jefferson counties is in effect until 6 a.m. Wednesday. It predicts total snow accumulations between 5 and 10 inches at low elevations in the region and 10 to 20 inches in the mountains. Strong winds are also expected.

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