Bundle up and lay off the gas pedal.

The National Weather Service is predicting a chilly week in Montana. The forecast in Missoula called for "bitterly cold wind chills Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning."

A high of 13 degrees and low of minus 3 degrees is expected on Veterans Day in Missoula, and a wind-chill advisory is in effect here from 11 p.m. Monday through noon Wednesday. 

In the span of 14 wintry hours Monday, the Montana Highway Patrol counted 33 crashes in District 1 - which includes Missoula and goes west to the Idaho border and east near Drummond. 

None of those wrecks included fatalities, but seven listed injuries, according to MDT. The number of total accidents was high compared to the four in the same period the previous day – and 11 total for the prior three days.

"I'd say that was a pretty significant spike there," said Highway Sgt. Andrew Knapp. "It's not rocket science, is it?"

***

Missoula County Sheriff's Office Capt. Rob Taylor said the first big snow of the year always leads to an increase in wrecks.

He asked drivers to plan ahead when the weather is bad and give themselves more time to reach their destinations – and keep more distance between their cars and those in front of them.

"Our shifts do run pretty hard from crash to crash assisting the troopers as much as we can in between our regular calls for service," Taylor said. 

As of late Monday morning inside the city limits, one vehicle had slid off the road, one crashed into a pole in a parking lot and all in all four wrecks had taken place, according to the Missoula Police Department.

At least two of them were due to weather, but none led to serious injuries, said Sgt. Travis Welsh. However, he said, relatively speaking, the number wasn't high at the time.

"We might have four crashes on any given day," Welsh said.

***

The blustery weather had city street crews juggling leaves and snow. The schedule called for leaf pickup, but the weather threw a kink in the plan.

“There’s nothing ‘normal’ about leaf season. It never goes as planned,” said streets superintendent Brian Hensel.

He said snowplow crews went to work before 1:30 a.m. Monday, and he anticipated they would be clearing snow and deicing through the week given the forecast.

"They're doing some plowing, and we're sanding in the hills and deicing in the flat," he said.

As for leaves, workers were behind in area 2 and hadn't finished area 1, but Hensel said the city would put smaller crews on the job, hopefully by Wednesday. If it snowed, the crew would work on both clearing snow and picking up leaves.

"And if it's not snowing, we'll put everybody out and do a full-blown leaf collection," Hensel said.

Hensel asked members of the public for their patience as workers managed both priorities at once. He also said freezing temperatures incapacitate the sweepers, so crews will do sweeping "between winter operations."

He also recommended the public view the city's website for updates.

"We will come back once all the areas are complete, and we'll take leaf pile requests and work on those, probably until February, I would guess," Hensel said.

The street maintenance site is at ci.missoula.mt.us/498/Street-Maintenance. The department's number is 552-6360.

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Reporter for the Missoulian