Those exploring the backcountry over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend should prepare for heavy snow and changing avalanche conditions in the mountains.
“It is easy for bad habits to creep into our lives this time of year, so if you are out in avalanche country stay diligent and follow your protocols to stay safe and safely assess the avalanche hazards,” West Central Montana Avalanche Advisor Logan King posted on Wednesday.
“The pattern of seasonable temperatures and clear skies is drawing to a close over the next few days. The National Weather Service is predicting heavy snow to move into the region sometime Thursday with rain in the valleys and wet heavy snow above 5,000 feet. West Central Montana looks to pick up about 3 inches to 6 inches of snow with the start of the system potentially bringing up to a half inch of snow-water equivalent.”
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Friday and Saturday could see an additional 6 inches to 12 inches of snow in upper elevations of western Montana. The new precipitation combined with freeze-thaw cycles on many slopes has created a surface crust that may not let snow accumulations bond. That could send avalanche risk climbing through the weekend, King said.
The weather pattern could also affect holiday traffic for those coming to and leaving family gatherings. The Missoula NWS office has issued a winter weather advisory from 9 p.m. Friday to noon Saturday with an expectation of 4 to 6 inches of snow in the valleys around Butte, Anaconda and Ovando, as well as up to 11 inches around Georgetown Lake. The Highway 200 corridor from Bonner to Seeley Lake may also be affected by the storm.