Snow buildup off Interstate 90 (copy)

Water, ice and snow flow across the frontage road beside Interstate 90 east of Missoula in 2014

Anyone heading to Idaho this weekend might want to consider putting their snow tires on first. Lolo, Lookout and Lost Trail passes are each expected to see significant snow this weekend, starting as early as Friday night.

Alex Lukinbeal, a Missoula-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said roads had the potential to get pretty slick over the passes.

“The roads will probably be the most slick around Sunday morning,” Lukinbeal said. “Saturday afternoon will probably be slushy, and then transition colder overnight and become more snow-packed and icy if not treated by road crews.”

The NWS issued a winter storm watch from Friday night through Sunday morning above 4,000 feet for the Southern Clearwater Mountains, Lolo Pass and Dixie, Idaho, areas. Some areas could see as much as 18 inches over the weekend.

Lukinbeal said Lolo Pass will likely see the heaviest snowfall Saturday morning and again from about 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

The valleys of western Montana could see less than an inch of snow, but mainly rain. Lukinbeal said any snow in Missoula will be minimal, with most of the precipitation coming on the Idaho side of the border.

Anxious skiers and snowboarders can rejoice, as Lookout Pass is expected to get about a foot of snow, Lukinbeal said. And while temperatures are expected to rise on Monday and may even hit the low 40s on Tuesday, he said much of the snow will likely stick around for the season.

Clean-up crews working on a spill of talcum powder near Lookout Pass shouldn't be too affected by the snow, according to the company hired to do the work.

A semi-truck hauling a load of talcum powder from Dillon hit a concrete barrier on Interstate 90 on Tuesday, losing a few pallets of the fine powder, the main ingredient of baby powder. The powder blanketed the immediate area west of St. Regis and dusted the hillside down to the St. Regis River.

Jim Rolle, director of environmental services at West Central Environmental Consultants, said most of the talc powder would be cleaned up before the snow falls. 

"Recovery has been effective in preventing even measurable impacts to the river and should be pretty much done today," Rolle said. "The real risk is inhalation, and that's been mitigated. Even though it makes it harder to recover, the bit of moisture helps in that regard. And the second risk is migration in the river. It's inert, but can increase cloudiness of water. But we haven't seen any of that so far."

The eastbound lane of I-90 was reopened Thursday night, after being closed for nearly two days following the spill, which had forced traffic to use a detour at Henderson, Exit 22, onto East Mullan Road to St. Regis. A single lane remains open to westbound traffic.

Reporter Kim Briggeman contributed to this story.

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