An arctic cold front moving into Missoula brought snow, wind and frigid temperatures Monday, a trifecta for dangerous roads. Temperatures inched steadily downward, hitting the low 20s by late Monday afternoon, and were predicted to be in single digits by Tuesday morning.
Jennifer Kitsmiller, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Missoula station, said conditions were likely to stay pretty bad throughout the week, but snow should be all wrapped up late Monday, at least for a few days.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Monday, but predicted the lowest temperatures will be from Tuesday night through Wednesday, potentially dropping below zero. Every morning this week will be well below freezing, creating potential for hazardous roadways.
Kitsmiller said that high temperatures this week would be about 20 to 30 degrees below average, and that October could end up setting a record for how cold it has been.
“How the next few days play out will determine where we end up. Top 10 coldest for sure and possibly Top 5,” she said. “These temperatures are more indicative of December or January. It’s not unheard of, but it’s a pretty rare event.”
As for trick-or-treaters on Thursday, Kitsmiller said highs might only be around 35 degrees.
“It will be a chilly one, so I’d say bring your coat and wear your long johns,” she said.
The Missoula County Sheriff's Office warned Monday that Interstate 90 should be restricted to emergency travel only on both eastbound and westbound lanes throughout Missoula County, and with temperatures remaining cold throughout the week, the roads weren’t likely to improve until road crews could get some sand and plows on the road.
The Missoula Police Department warned drivers via social media Monday afternoon to stay clear of the roads unless necessary, saying police were responding to multiple crashes across town.
Adriane Beck, Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management director, said conditions were expected to be extremely hazardous through at least 9 p.m. Monday.
Beck said a jackknifed semi on I-90 at mile marker 109, near the Bonner exit, caused traffic delays.
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“There’s been multiple fender-benders throughout the city,” Beck said. “So take your time and drive slow if you have to drive at all.”
MPD on scene of a possible injury crash at the intersection of Russell and Mount Streets. MFD also on scene, please watch for emergency vehicles and expect delays/detours.— Missoula Police Dept (@mpd_tweet) October 28, 2019
According to Montana Highway Patrol’s traffic incident tracker, there were at least nine reported crashes or slide-offs on I-90 in the Missoula area Monday afternoon. MHP Sgt. Sean Finley said there were likely far more, with at least seven crash reports in Hamilton as well.
Finley said he didn’t expect I-90 to be closed down, and sand trucks were making their way throughout the area late Monday.
“This weather just hit pretty quick and created some bad conditions,” Finley said. “I suggest people who need to drive to be very, very cautious.”
We are experiencing two outages in Missoula along both SW Higgins and 7th St. Crews are in the area and we will restore power as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.— NorthWestern Energy (@NWEinfo) October 28, 2019
NorthWestern Energy tweeted that the company was working to fix two power outages in Missoula, one on Southwest Higgins and one on Seventh Street.
Mountain Line buses experienced delays system-wide as road conditions deteriorated, and the bus service urged riders to allow for extra commuting time.
The roof of First Security Bank on Broadway and Madison appeared to have been blown loose by the wind, and the bank had a sign alerting people that it would be closed for the rest of the day.
Tire shops across town saw a steady stream of people rushing in for snow tires Monday, with all the lifts at Midas on Orange Street filled early Monday with cars getting tire changeovers. Shop owner Hank Derringer, said it had been nonstop since Friday once news broke of the upcoming cold snap.
“We’re double-teaming on the tire machines,” Derringer said. “It’ll be crazy from now until we get some sunshine, but it’ll pick right back up as soon as it gets cold again.”