An arctic air mass moving into western Montana on Thursday and Friday should send temperatures to the single digits and push wind chills well below zero.

“Most people around here, if they haven’t lived up here in the last 30 years, may not have seen this before,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Kitsmiller said in a conference call Tuesday. “This could be a period where we have some of the coldest average temperatures we’ve had in 40 years.”

One cold front was already getting established over the Rocky Mountains on Tuesday, which dropped the mercury from 41 on Monday to 22 on Tuesday afternoon in Missoula. The next front should be considerably harsher, Kitsmiller said.

“We could have places on Friday that don’t reach zero degrees,” Kitsmiller said. “There’s some moisture coming, but only ice crystals or very light snow.”

Starting Wednesday, daytime high temperatures will struggle to exceed 10, while nighttime lows will be well below zero. In addition, wind gusts as strong as 30 mph will make the cold even worse. Wind chill effects will make the air feel around minus 25 to minus 30 in some places along the Continental Divide and between 10 and 20 below zero in the rest of the northern Rocky Mountains.

That raises threats to schoolchildren waiting for buses, livestock looking for shelter and pets in outdoor kennels. While the arctic cold isn’t expected to make roads slippery, any motorist getting stranded with engine trouble could risk frostbite if not properly prepared for an exposed wait.

Bonner Elementary School Superintendent Doug Ardiana said teachers check the temperature and wind chill levels before any recess or lunch break, and keep children inside if the wind chill is worse than 10 below zero.

“It’s very, very rare that Bonner ever closes school or delays buses,” Ardiana said. “We feel people are prepared to act appropriately with the weather.”

However, he added that nine of 10 Bonner students ride the bus to and from school every day. Parents may want to drive their children to school or wait with them at bus stops Friday if conditions get serious.

There’s a possibility that snow could be added to the mix by Monday, but forecast models haven’t settled on that yet. The weekend cold front has most of the attention.

“By Saturday morning, we really could drop the bottom out,” Kitsmiller said. “It’s bringing some of the coldest air I’ve seen in a long time. The preparedness people have done in the past may not be enough.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at

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(35) comments


Hey folks. Haven't you got it yet? "They" are re-writing history to meet whatever objectives and agendas are in store for us. Even the weather. And the media is helping "them" along.


I have discussed this article with a few friends now, and we have pretty much called BS on this article. We all remember a colder norm than this little cold snap we are having now. And in earlier times of the year. I know I have seen temps like this in November, even early November, all though more rare.

We haven't had winter, really, since 1996. With modern American's notorious short memories and ability at getting soft when times are easy, is it any wonder that this subject has gotten so controversial (we are talking about the weather after all!!!! and there is that politicized climate change). Since this article is more about sensationalism than informing the reader, I believe the onus in on the Missoulian to do some "investigative journalism" on this important subject and bring us back some information we can trust! I really don't think it will hurt the real estate or the big box and chain store industries much, to spite this little cold snap, the trend to a warmer and dryer Montana will continue, I believe, all though that means hot smoky summers, and over used and abused water ways....

Objective observer

No kidding. Coldest air mass in 40 years? Not even for this time of year. The record low for Saturday December 7 is -16...set in 2005!


I recall driving my ' 38 Ford convertible back to Montana State College following Christmas break, in January 1951 when I had car trouble and stalled on Pipestone Pass. It was 41 below in Butte that night.



Sounds like some of you neglected to read the article before commenting. The headline is misleading, but when you read the article, the NWS Spokesman speaks of average temps not just the lows
“Most people around here, if they haven’t lived up here in the last 30 years, may not have seen this before,” National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Kitsmiller said in a conference call Tuesday. “This could be a period where we have some of the coldest average temperatures we’ve had in 40 years.”


The missoulian is quoting the weatherman. They should know better. The winter of 89 ( that's 24 years ago, not 40) it was 75 below with wind chill and Flathead Lake froze over. This article is about as accurate as the global warming claims.

B Note
B Note

I was doing building maintenance in 1989 and I remember the cold snap. Evergreen tree froze. My pickup didn't shut off for three weeks. Nothing could get warm enough.


Rob Chaney's article and the NWS interviewee left out that "coldest in decades" refers only to early December. The Missoula record low for December 4th is minus 2, 41 years ago. The all time record low is near minus 30, as much colder weather has been often experienced throughout the winter months. As the old-timers would say, 'This ain't nothin.' Notably, though, after two straight winters without a sub-zero temperature in Missoula (we hadn't had a winter without sub-zero temps in the previous fifty years!) we look to be headed for sub-zero in the coming days. Perhaps it is yet another indication of global warming that local reporters have already forgotten how cold it used to routinely get in Missoula!

Objective observer

Record low for December 7 is -16...set in 2005.


Global Warming exists, & always regular cycles. However, there is absolutely NO objective scientific evidence that Mankind is causing this one. Obama's orgasmic spew that burned hydrocarbons are causing this one is TOTALLY unsubstantiated. The few "scientists" who believe this depend upon Federal research funds for their livelihood. If they find no Global Warming, they do not receive future funding for more nonsense research. Those US scientists who have "confirmed" Global Warming have received Millions of Research to continue their "good" work. World wide scientists, who do not depend upon a gov't with a mission against hydrocarbons, do not believe this and have found proof to the contrary. Winter temps have been lower for the last 10 years. Oh, that's right: that's CAUSED by Global Warming. I get it, I think? It's a shame that otherwise intelligent individuals hear a lie, repeatedly, begin to believe it, and finally incorporate the idea into an accepted scientific fact of life. All without believable scientific proof. For a scientific finding to be believable, the scientist MUST not profit from a finding in one direction or the other. The findings must be objective. With Global Warming, this is not the case. Far from it. Our Earth temperatures have fluctuated over millions of years. We did have an Ice Age. That ended long before mankind ever thought of burning hydrocarbons for heat & energy. These cycles will continue long after Obama is down the road as the Ambassador to the United Nations, where he will continue to give away billions of OUR tax dollars.


Thank you Leadfoot!


Waiting to read a comment how this disproves global warming.


Again - to repeat what Salish's commented....
This is December.

Yes, we do see single digits and sub zero...but that typically would come in Jan/Feb. I remember Hellgate winds with those sub-sero temps of day time in the 70's, in late January/early February..........

Matthew Koehler

Say what? "Coldest temperatures in 40 years headed for western Montana"

Huh? Who would've known that the official forecasted temperatures for Missoula over the next few days of between the single-digits above zero to the single-digits below zero would constitute "some of the coldest average temperatures we’ve had in 40 years.”

I mean, this is Montana in December, right? I've lived in the area for almost 20 years and there have certainly been much lower temperatures than what we are about to experience. Just saying....

Alan H Johnson

Hmm, I wonder if a chantaclier comes out and crows when it's below zero? ;-)


I worked night shift on core drilling rigs near Rogers Pass the winter of 1970. I don't think they had invented wind chill yet but it was mighty chilly.


I recall in the late 80's a two week period where we never got much above zero. As harsh as it might be this week we are likely to see 40's in January. Part of the fun of living here.


Fire up your stove with coal! It burns hot so you have heat in the short term, and will cause more global warming to prevent cold weather in the future. A win win!


How long until we hear from a G-W denier?


Are you referring to climate change? .... and let the comments begin

Objective observer

See Pistol up above. "It's really cold so glabal warming is a hoax."


Awfully defensive, aren't we? All I know is that Uncle Algore told us that there would be far more hurircaines than in the past, yet they have dropped. The funny thing is that all of you global warming, sky-is-falling fear mongers use each and every single warm weather event as irrefutable proof of global warming. Doesn't matter if it is a heat wave, a hurricane, or a wildfire. You and your global warming alarmist friends link them every when it doesn't suit your case. Kinda like right now. I guess it is getting time to change the name of your voodoo science again, right?. Since "Global Warming" didn't work out, now "Climate Change" is a bust, maybe you could change it to "Weather Variation." That way you can conveniently blame coal and SUV's EVERY time the weather changes. It if is 1 degree colder or warmer than yesterday.....Climate Variation. If the seasons change.......Climate Variation. "I don't know what Climate Variation is, but we have to stop it!" And of course, the only way to do that is to tax people billions of dollars. All of you liberal regressives are just "Climate Variation Deniers" "The debate is over." I love you guys!

Objective observer

Thank God this debate is over. PG (breathlessly) how can we ever thank you!


Actually, I believe it is being called "Global Weirding" --seems that there is an extraordinary weather event happening some where in the world at any given time any more.


Brrrr! If it doesn't warm up soon I'm going to have to move back to where I came from - Great Falls. Hmmm, never mind.


Evidently the Farmers Almanac was correct - this winter will be colder and with more snow than usual, like a normal Montana winter.


Funny thing that I quickly Googled this knowing it not to be correct. Found in 2004 January it was down to -19. More garbage headlines.

Objective observer

That was my first thought. Wait a minute. We had -20 that year and I remember a couple of other years where we got down to -16. Coldest in 40 years? Not yet.

Mary Frances Schjonberg

I lived in Missoula in the 80s and 90s -- worked at the Missoulian -- and I especially remember the winter of 1989. On Feb 2, 1989 there was the derailment in Helena when the temperature was -30 with chills of about -70. Missoulian reporters and photogs helped our colleagues at the Independent Record cover the story under dangerous conditions


Glad someone else rememberd the -70 windchill in the late 80's... 1989 to be specific. Back then, it was considered a normal Montana winter. Who's car didn't start back then? My '78 pinto didn't want nothing to do with that morning lol. If I remember right, schools were still open? Stay warm and safe everyone!!


That was the only time, and I went to school in Montana through college, that school was closed. It was closed for 3 days but the temps were accompanied by about 2 feet of snow. It was the inability for buses to start let alone get around on the streets due to the snow. I lived all over Montana but that by far was the worst storm and temps. I distinctly remember it being in the 40's maybe even 50's not but 2 days before then suddenly the front came and my dad came and got me from school, we stopped at the store and stocked up for what was about to occur. Missoula never really gets real cold. Go out east and then you'll feel cold.


In my memory, 17 years ago not 30 or 40, this wouldn't have been news, it would have been just a normal Montana winter....?


Although the article failed to be more specific, most of us old timers realize that it really is rare for these kind of temperatures to show up here in the first days of December...thus the 30-40 years mentioned. Normally, it's not until January, and even February that we have these extremely low temperatures. Regardless, take care everyone, especially of your children and pets.

Objective observer

Actually, if you say it will be the coldest air mass in 40 years, that includes all months of the year. So the headline WAS inaccurate.

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