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Framed in the frost

Framed by a frosty window at a downtown coffee shop, a pedestrian braves near-zero temperatures Monday morning in Missoula. Overnight lows are forecast to drop below zero the next couple of days and some more cold mornings are expected until the weekend.

The frigid temperatures that blew into Missoula at the end of last week are likely to stick around through the remainder of this one, according to the National Weather Service.

And we're the lucky ones.

Bob Hoenisch, meteorologist at the Great Falls National Weather Service, said the cold temperatures will be spread over the entire state.

“The warmest areas are near Missoula, where they’ll be single digits below zero tonight,"  Hoenisch said Monday.

Luke Robinson, a meteorologist at the NWS office in Missoula, said the past weekend saw an arctic air mass drop down from Canada, leading to a blanket of new snow and strong winds that hit western Montana on Friday.

Now that the air mass has settled in place, Robinson said area residents should expect low temperatures throughout the work week, especially in the mornings.

“Tuesday morning will probably be the last of the widespread single-digit temperatures in the area, but we will see single digit lows and highs in the teens and low 20s throughout the week,” he said.

In Helena, the cold snap was forecast to get even colder Monday night, with temperatures expected to plummet to nearly minus-20 degrees Fahrenheit. “Avoid going outside unless you have to,” Hoenisch said.

Helena's all-time record low, set in 1882, is 23 below.

Power outages, blamed on winds topping 22 mph, plagued Butte and Deer Lodge over the weekend. And Billings is headed for a record-setting February in terms of snowfall, with at least 31.5 inches of snow as of Sunday night. That's a few inches short of the February record of 37 inches, with 10 days left in the month. 


While afternoon snow showers in Missoula are possible over the next few days, Robinson said no significant accumulation is expected in the valleys.

Missoula police Sgt. Mike Hebert said officers were busy with crashes and fender benders Monday morning, but that even with the icy road conditions, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“I would say it’s been steady. There’s been more than usual, but nothing catastrophic,” he said.

The West Central Montana Avalanche Center had issued an avalanche warning that expired on Monday, but is still listing avalanche danger as considerable on all backcountry terrain and high on wind-loaded terrain.

The center reports that the strong weekend winds and new snow created slabs that have yet to bond to the existing snow surface.

Lee Enterprises reporters Thomas Plank in Helena and Annie Pentilla in Butte, and the Billings Gazette staff contributed to this story.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.