Cold snap breaks few records; more bitter weather on the way
Crystal-clear skies heralded another night of bitter-cold weather for all of Montana and another frigid awakening Tuesday morning.
Morning lows were forecast to range from 15 below zero west of the Continental Divide to 40 below zero in central Montana. Forecast highs were from 1 to 15 degrees above zero.
Temperatures plunged as low as 45 degrees below zero Monday at Polebridge and even the "warmest" lows were in the teens below zero.
However, none of the largest cities reported record lows, said Peter Felsch of the National Weather Service office in Missoula.
Miles City and Anaconda set records for Jan. 5, both at minus 27. Anaconda's previous record was minus 23 in 1909. Miles City had registered 17 below in 1988.
By comparison, Missoula's high temperature Monday was a relatively balmy minus 2, while the low was 13 below zero.
Polebridge was the coldest spot in the nation, according to a National Weather Service Web site. The site said the previous record at Polebridge was 38 below zero. The weather bureau in Great Falls, however, listed West Yellowstone's minus 43 as the coldest in the state.
Wisdom, in extreme southwestern Montana, registered an unofficial minus 51.
Rex Caraker, the official weather observer at Wisdom, in extreme southwestern Montana, said the low was 37 or 38 degrees below zero, but said he did not take readings past 6 a.m. The Spokane Ranch, a few miles east, registered an unofficial 51 below zero, said Arlee Staley.
The cold moved in over the weekend with an Arctic air mass that covered all of Montana and spread as far south as Colorado.
Schools on the Fort Belknap Reservation closed Monday, as did some roads. Tractors, snowplows and other heavy equipment were either frozen or ineffective.
"We haven't seen this big of a storm since 1978 when they had to airlift hay to cattle. It was so unexpected," said Doreen Bell, a member of the Fort Belknap Community Council.