Wintry weather in the forecast: Snow could top a foot in some locations

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

The National Weather Service forecasts cold and snow for New Year weekend.
Photo by Jenny Gessaman

This weekend could see some of the coldest temperatures yet for Central Montana, according to the National Weather Service.

In a briefing Thursday afternoon, Weather Service meteorologists said all of Central Montana will be under a winter storm warning until 5 p.m. today (Saturday). The warning is for heavy snow, blowing snow and wind chill cold enough to produce frostbite.

Beginning Friday the storm was expected to bring over a foot of snow to higher elevations and a total of 6 to 8 inches in Lewistown.

“Saturday afternoon is when we expect to see the heavier snow,” said Matt Jackson, lead meteorologist with the Great Falls office of NWS. “That will be followed by very cold air and gusty winds.”

The storm could produce even heavier snow than expected, experts said, as wet Pacific air coming in from the West meets a dome of cold air coming down from northern Canada.

“As the moist Pacific air rises up over the Rockies, it squeezes the dome of cold air,” Jackson said. “This doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it can produce a lot of snow.”

There will be periods when the snow stops, especially Saturday morning, Jackson said. But those will be followed by periods of heavy snow. Beginning Saturday evening and lasting into the first week in January, gusty winds will produce areas of blowing snow, especially over the northern parts of Central Montana.

The Weather Service is warning people to take care to avoid hypothermia and frostbite as temperatures plummet through Monday night.

The good news is the longer range forecast into late next week is for warmer, more seasonable temperatures in the upper 20s. 

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