GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – Twenty years ago, on Aug. 24, 1992, Glacier National Park visitors encountered a freak summer snowstorm that delivered upward of 18 inches in some areas of the park.
“We really mean it when we say come prepared for a wide range of weather, although usually it’s not that extreme,” park officials posted to Glacier Park’s popular Facebook page on Friday. “Many backpackers that week were very unprepared for the dramatic change in the weather and had to cut their trips short.”
The online history lesson was accompanied by a photograph of a snow-covered St. Mary Valley, taken two days after the storm hit.
Both posts were prompted by separate wind and winter weather advisories issued for Friday and Saturday in the West Glacier region, with the National Weather Service forecasting overnight low temperatures in the low to mid-30s, and gusts of up to 70 mph on Logan Pass.
“Much cooler. Temperatures above 6,000 feet will struggle to get out of the 40s,” the advisory warns.
Alex Neigher, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Missoula, said a serious 1992-like accumulation of snow is unlikely, and that the intent of the winter weather advisory is primarily to prepare park visitors for the dropping temperatures.
“Storms like that on the horizon are out of the question. That’s maybe a one-in-100-year storm. Eighteen inches in August is almost unheard of,” he said. “We are potentially looking at a trace of snow with this system passing through, but we are not expecting much in the way of accumulation. The winter weather advisory is mainly because of the colder temperatures that are passing through. We want people who are camping out to be prepared for cold overnight and morning temperatures, and to plan accordingly.”
Even though backpackers might not wake up to snowdrifts, up to 1 inch of snow is possible above 7,000 feet, and the cold temperatures are between 20 and 30 degrees lower than what have been observed the past few days. Rain also is possible.
Neigher said high-profile vehicles traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun Road also should use extra caution because the strong winds can make driving difficult.
“If you have a high-profile vehicle and you are not expecting it, that can present a significant driving hazard if you are not prepared to deal with that,” he said.
Temperatures will be warming back up on Sunday and Monday, but another cooler system could visit the region midweek, although “we don’t expect it to be as cold as this one,” he said.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 531-9745 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.