A blast of cold air and snow that blew into Missoula to close out the weekend also left thousands of residents without power for two hours Sunday afternoon.
NorthWestern Energy reported around noon that more than 2,000 customers in the lower Rattlesnake area were without power, and sent service crews out to ascertain and fix the problem. Some traffic lights east of the downtown area, as well as at the intersection of Higgins Avenue and Front Street were without power during the afternoon.
The Missoula Public Library announced it was closed for the day around 2 p.m. after having lost power.
Power was restored around two hours after the outage began.
Much of western Montana was put under winter storm warning Sunday by the National Weather Service, which is predicting four to six inches of new snow in the Missoula valley, with as much as five to eight inches possible in the Bitterroot area. The snow was joined by gusts up to 60 mph, with wind chills dropping the temperature as low as 19 below zero overnight.
Katie Armstrong and her boyfriend Tom Banks were buffeted by the blasts of cold air as they crossed the Higgins Avenue bridge on their way home as the temperature outside hit 12 degrees.
“We thought it would be kind of fun to get out in the wind and snow, come downtown and grab coffee or something, but now getting back is a bit of a struggle,” Armstrong said.
Rain on Saturday that froze overnight and was covered by snow made road conditions especially slick on Sunday. The Montana Department of Transportation listed all highways around the Missoula area as being covered in snow and ice, with near-zero visibility due to blowing snow. The Montana Highway Patrol reported multiple slideoffs along Interstate 90 east and west of Missoula throughout the day.
In Flathead County more power outages were reported throughout the day, and Whitefish Mountain Resort said it didn’t run eight of its 11 chairlifts on Sunday due to the extreme weather conditions.
The storm warning remains in effect through Monday afternoon, with wind gusts of more than 40 mph expected. Even after the warning ends, the National Weather Service is predicting highs only in the teens through the middle of the week, with another storm system predicted for the end of the week that may bring yet more snow to the area.
Arlee schools announced on Sunday that they will open two hours late because of the severe weather. Buses will run two hours behind schedule and the school will open at 10 a.m.