BILLINGS – Terry Stensby was glad that his chat with his acupuncturist took a little longer than usual at the Eastern Medical Center on Monday.

“The timing saved my life,” he said.

As he stood in the lobby talking, something happened in the parking lot.

“I heard a hell of a noise, he said, “And I’m hard of hearing.”

When he rushed outside, his wife’s Chevy Spark had been smashed from the front bumper all the way to the roof, by one of the poles holding up the business’ sign after a powerful gust of wind blew it over.

“Quite a freak accident, I tell you what,” said Stensby, who has had heart bypass surgery and has diabetes. “It probably would have given me a heart attack from fright.”

Powerful winds howled across Montana on Monday.

A 66 mph gust recorded on 11:10 a.m., at Billings Logan International Airport, tied the record for strongest wind gust in the month of January.

A gust of 66 mph also was recorded on Jan. 2, 2009.

The highest wind gust ever in Billings was clocked at 85 mph on July 7, 2007.

Very strong wind warnings remained in effect throughout the day.

By 3 p.m. Monday, the Billings Fire Department had responded to five calls regarding utility lines down. Sunday, there was only one.

Students at Arrowhead Elementary were kept inside for most of the day’s recesses to keep them safe, said Arrowhead Principal Pam Meier.

While there is not a formal wind policy in Billings schools, each principal uses discretion based on the conditions.

“Some are more protected from wind, but Arrowhead is in an open space,” Meier said.

Debris, dust or rocks could unexpectedly fly onto the playground, she said.

“We want to make sure kids are safe.”

A tree blew into a power line, causing outages in between the 100 and 500 blocks of Yellowstone Avenue.

“It only lasted about 20 minutes,” said Butch Larcombe, a spokesperson for NorthWestern Energy. “There shouldn’t be any issue at this point.”

The Red Lodge Mountain ski resort in Red Lodge alerted potential skiers on its Facebook page that the slopes would be closed Monday until winds decreased.

By midday, forecasters monitored gusts of 60 to 70 mph across the region, said David Church, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The cause of Monday’s strong gusts comes from the jet stream, which is currently sitting right above Montana.

“As we heat up during the day it allows the winds above us to mix down to the surface,” Church said.

An inch of snow may fall on Billings on Monday night, which should slow down the winds, Church said.

On Tuesday, winds will top out near 20 mph.

“Wednesday looks like it will be a little windier than Tuesday, with gusts of 30 or 45, and by Thursday we’ll be lighter with the wind,” Church said. “It will be our break.”

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