Several feet of snow have fallen and power lines are down in the Rockies — and it’s only September.
A winter storm is blowing through parts of the region this weekend, just days after the start of fall.
So far, parts of Montana have received almost two feet of snow. Browning was blanketed by 23 inches and East Glacier Park by 21.
The National Weather Service’s winter-storm warning for portions of north-central Montana is in effect until Monday morning. CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said another one to two feet of snow may fall by then.
A blizzard warning was issued Sunday for Glacier, western Teton, western Pondera, and northern Lewis and Clark Counties, the National Weather Service said.
Wind gusts as high as 55 mph are possible and visibility is near or below a quarter mile, the weather service said.
Great Falls, Montana, got a preliminary reading of 9.7 inches of snow Saturday, which would set a new daily snowfall record, beating the previous record in 1954 by 3.6 inches.
And by Saturday morning Choteau, Montana, was experiencing downed trees and power lines, making it dangerous for people on the road, according to CNN affiliate KRTV.
The station reported several power outages across the area, including in Simms, Sun Prairie and parts of Great Falls.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency across the state to help local municipalities deal with the storm.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, as much as three feet of snow has fallen in some parts of the state.
“With an unprecedented winter storm throwing our state a surprise in September, state and local governments are working closely together to protect the health and safety of Montanans and our top priority is making sure that happens,” Bullock said.
Potential to be historically significant
While snow in September may sound shocking in some parts of the country, Cabrera says that it is not that uncommon for the area. What is surprising is the amount, he said.
“If the forecast pans out, this would rival or surpass the 1934 winter storm which was for many areas the top early-season snowfall event on record,” Cabrera said.
Winds are predicted to gust at 35 to 45 mph on Sunday, Cabrera said. These winds, combined with the snow that is forecast, could lead to whiteout conditions.
“This has the potential to be a historically significant early-season snow event,” said the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Montana.
The unexpected and destructive
The National Weather Service anticipates that the storm will bring damage as well as surprise.
“Very heavy wet snow and strong winds will lead to downed trees, power outages, and treacherous travel conditions,” the weather service said.
With winds this strong and the sudden cold air interacting with the warmer mountain lake water, there is the chance for damaging waves across Montana’s Flathead Lake.
And given the expected wet nature of the snow, a host of potentially dangerous impacts could result.
Widespread tree damage and downed power lines are possible, resulting in power outages. Agricultural damage could be caused by the record cold temperatures.
Livestock is also at risk. The National Weather Service warned, “make sure livestock and pets also have the essentials that they will need during the storm.”
Montanans capture images of snow’s effects
Montana residents didn’t waste time in showing how the snow is affecting them.
Carlene Whitney Salois took a picture of the accumulating snow and said the totals are “adding up.”
The National Weather Service in Great Falls tweeted out pictures from northern Montana showing highways with up to a foot of snow on the road.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa tweeted pictures of the dangerous impacts of snow with a car crash on a road in central Montana.