Winter weather brings record snow to Lewistown area

By 
Deb Hill
News-Argus Managing Editor
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
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Lewistown dug out from under record snow Monday morning. Snow totals for the weekend came in somewhere between 14 and 17 inches.
Photo by Katherine Sears

Sunday’s storm brought record amounts of snow to parts of Central Montana, but the main lingering effect seems to be cooler than average temperatures for the rest of this week.
According to Bryon Armour, Lewistown Public Airport manager, somewhere between 14 and 17 inches of snow fell at the airport, which is the official location for measuring local weather. However, Armour said, these snowfall amounts are estimates.
“It blew so hard, it’s hard to say exactly how much snow fell,” Armour explained.
The National Weather Service office in Great Falls isn’t sure either, for the same reason.
“We have one observer in the Lewistown area who measured 14 inches,” said Meteorologist Bob Hoenisch. “What is safe to say is that this storm broke the snowfall records for those dates.”
Those records are 2.8 inches of snow for Nov. 7, set in 1997, and 4 inches of snow for Nov. 8, set in 2010.

Besides dropping a lot of snow, heavy wind made travel—and any outdoor activity—difficult on Sunday.
“The wind was about 29 miles per hour sustained at the airport, and the highest gust recorded was 37 mph,” Hoenisch said. “The average wind speed for all of Sunday was 21 mph, which is a lot when averaged over that many hours.”
While the storm has now moved off to the central Canadian prairies, Hoenisch said Central Montana will continue to feel its effects, in terms of cooler temperatures all this week.
“The rest of the week will be much more quiet,” Hoenisch said. “There is a possibility of snow showers Tuesday night into Wednesday but that’s a weak weather system and Lewistown probably won’t see much more than an inch at most.”
Temperatures will be cooler than normal for the rest of the week, and near or below average temperatures for the next two weeks.
“The long term forecast for this winter is for near or below average temperatures and higher than average precipitation,” Hoenisch said, “due to the La Niña effect.”
In other words, Sunday’s storm may be a precursor of the winter to come.

Effects not as bad as feared
The main impact of Sunday’s snow and blowing snow was to make travel hazardous. Most of Central Montana was still digging out on Monday and Tuesday, including at the airport.
By mid-morning Monday, Armour said he and his crew had one runway open, although it was icy.
“We plow the runways but when we get this much snow, the plow leaves big berms along the sides, and we need to come back through with snow blowers to remove the plow piles to make it clear enough for planes, so their wings don’t touch the berms,” he said.
Fergus County Sheriff Rick Vaughn said his office did not get reports of any major incidents – no stranded motorists or lost hunters.
“We had a small number of slide-offs, but overall I think people did a really good job taking care in the storm,” Vaughn said. “We did not have to go out to look for anyone, and we really appreciate everyone paying attention to the weather and helping keep our deputies from having to go out in the storm.”
Fergus Electric reported a handful of outages caused by ice on the lines and strong winds.
“We had some homes without power,” Assistant Line Superintendent Bret Ophus said. “It was amazing we didn’t have more issues than we did.”
Ophus said there were power outages near Forest Grove, Flat Willow and Bohemian Corners.
“The wires were bouncing pretty hard, and slapping into each other,” Ophus said. “The wind was so bad in places, the wires were bouncing 4, 5 feet up and down. I don’t know how anything holds together when you get bounce that big. Eventually it can take the cross beams out. There was a big potential to lose some poles, but while some of the neighboring co-ops did lose some, we didn’t. We kind of dodged a bullet.”

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