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Despite the frigid temperatures and the inconvenience of having no catcher behind the plate, Steve Brewer winds up on the mound at the Little League fields Monday afternoon to get in a few pitches. "I just like baseball," says the 55-year-old. "I'm out here every month of the year."

Heading out to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Here’s a helpful hint.

Keep your tongues off metal lampposts. It’s going to be a cold one.

Meteorologist Dan Zumpfe of the National Weather Service in Missoula says western Montana will ring out the old and ring in the new in very cold conditions. It’s expected to hit 14 degrees below zero early Wednesday morning, and 2 below early on New Year’s Day.

“New Year’s Eve we’re looking at a high of 9 – but that’s 6 degrees warmer than today,” Zumpfe said Tuesday. “It should get up to 12 on New Year’s Day.”

Jan. 1 also could bring hazy skies to Missoula, with inversions trapping air pollution in the valley, according to Zumpfe.

While it’s plenty cold, it’s not record cold, he added.

“This is traditionally the coldest week of the year for us, but most records are in the 30-below-zero range,” he said. The cold is due in large part to a high-pressure system sitting over the region, and, “ironically, we need a cold front to come through” in order to warm things up.

That could occur starting Friday night. With it could come light snow, but the cloud cover will help warm temperatures into the mid-20s by Saturday afternoon, the Weather Service predicts.

What happens after that should be interesting.

***

“Next week we’ve got a big plume of subtropical moisture – we’re calling it an ‘atmospheric river’ – that’s headed through the neighborhood,” Zumpfe said. “It will be interesting to see how it interacts with the cold air.”

If it stays cold enough, that means snow. Another possibility is freezing rain, with rain also possible as temperatures climb into the mid-30s, and may hit 40 in some places.

“If it warms up enough, it could put rain on top of snow up to 8,000 feet,” Zumpfe said. “With that, flooding could occur, but it’s too soon to say what will be the biggest hazard. There’s definitely moisture entering the picture starting Monday, and the only question is whether it’s rain, snow or freezing rain.”

Zumpfe said Missoula temperatures dipped to 11 below zero Tuesday morning, but that was far from the record of minus 27 set in 1968. The record high, he added, was 60 degrees in 1917, giving the city an 87-degree difference between record highs and lows.

It’s even more pronounced in Butte, where Dec. 30 has been as cold as minus 42 in 1978, and as warm as 55 in 1917.

“That’s a 97-degree difference between a record high and a record low,” Zumpfe said. “That’s Butte, America, right there.”

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