Missoula and Surrounding Valleys Anticipate a New Storm

By PAUL QUENEAU

The National Weather Service in Missoula is warning a storm now bearing down on Western Montana may bring destructive winds during the day Wednesday to the Missoula, Bitterroot, Mission, and Flathead Valleys and near-whiteout conditions to Lookout and Lolo passes.

Snow will begin falling in earnest late Monday night in the mountains, dropping 10 to 15 inches by Wednesday evening, though accompanying winds may not allow much to accumulate in windward areas.

Snow blows off the top of Lolo Peak near Missoula.

In fact, it’s the winds that are causing the greatest concern amongst forecasters.

During the day Wednesday, sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts to near 60 mph are possible, which may damage trees and power lines, the National Weather Services warns.

Strong crosswinds, especially on north/south roads such a Highway 93 could prove also troublesome for high-profile vehicles. A wind event in last May with 40 mph gusts knocked down a number of trees across Missoula.

On mountain passes, this storm will likely bring blowing and drifting snow and near whiteout conditions at times.

High winds brought a tree down onto a house on Van Buren Drive.

A 40 mph windstorm in mid-May of 2011 blew over trees and knocked out power across Missoula, including this hefty pine in the lowerRattlesnake.

Little snow accumulation is expected in the valleys, but this dump could bring skiers and snowboarders the best chance for substantial mountain snow since our last big storm in January.

Backcountry travelers should beware of avalanche danger, however, which high winds often escalate.

For more information, visit the NOAA website.

 

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Get more of Montana’s great outdoors with some of Paul’s other posts, 2011’s Top 20 Montana Outdoor Photos and How to Lose a Staring Contest with an Elk, or visit his blog archive.

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Paul Queneau is an avid outdoor recreationist, naturalist, and hunter. He works as conservation editor of Bugle Magazine at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, where he writes about, photographs, edits, and films wildlife. See and read more of his work on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s website and Paul’s photoportfolio.