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Wind-blown snow swirls around Alex Maxwell as he wrestles a snowblower through large drifts at the Canyon River neighborhood near East Missoula Monday morning.

Arctic cold returns to northwest Montana this weekend on the heels of more snow Thursday and Friday.

“It will be similar to what we saw last weekend with a couple of differences,” National Weather Service meteorologist Cliff Robinson said on a storm briefing Thursday afternoon. Seven days ago, Missoula and much of western Montana were basking in high 30s and 40s when the cold snap hit, resulting in ice-sheeted roads and sidewalks. This time, the temperature has rarely risen above 20 for a week, so new ice shouldn’t be a problem.

Blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility on the roads will, however. Light, fluffy snow is expected to start falling on Thursday night into Friday, with an inch or less expected in valleys across much of western Montana. But between 6 and 8 inches could land in the Flathead Valley and the Highway 2 corridor between Columbia Falls and Marias Pass.

The cold air mass pouring over the Continental Divide Friday evening will stir that around with wind gusts up to 40 mph. The Kalispell and Highway 2 area toward Marias Pass should get hit first, with wind-chills down to minus 30. The Missoula Valley and surrounding area will feel it Saturday morning with wind chills around minus 20. A Winter Storm Watch is in place for Friday afternoon in the Clearwater Junction-Helmville area along Highway 200 and Missoula to Butte along Interstate 90.

A second surge of moisture Sunday night and Monday will center around the Bitterroot Valley between Missoula and Salmon, Idaho, extending as far east as Butte. This could deliver up to six inches of snow. And it may be followed by another subtropical moisture flow late next week, bringing more snow to the persistent cold.

Montana’s rough weekend may get eclipsed by the rest of the nation, as wild weather appears on tap for the West Coast, upper Midwest and East Coast.

The Seattle-Portland area is expecting another snow dump Friday and through the weekend, with up to six inches in the mountains. In the Upper Great Lakes region, heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions were already hampering traffic on Thursday, while rain was expected ahead of the front in the Ohio Valley, along with flash-flooding and severe isolated thunderstorms in some areas.

The Eastern Seaboard should first get a surge of warm air coming up from the South Thursday night, followed by plunging temperatures on Friday as the Canadian cold air pushes back. High temperatures in the Great Plains are expected to stay below zero through the weekend. Texas could see thermometers running 10 to 20 degrees below normal Friday and Saturday.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.