GLASGOW – Northeastern Montana remained under a wind chill warning Sunday with wind chills up to 59 below zero due to a rare combination of conditions even for a state used to Arctic blasts.
Meteorologist Patrick Gilchrist with the National Weather Service in Glasgow said temperatures of 18 below zero are combining with winds of 20 to 30 mph to create dangerous conditions.
“To see the really strong winds like this under an Arctic air mass is unusual,” said Gilchrist, noting the last time it happened was the winter of 2010-2011. The combination can cause exposed skin to be frostbitten within minutes.
The region is sparsely populated with mostly scattered ranches and small towns.
“We have a fairly good sense of community,” Gilchrist said. “If someone sees someone broken down on the side of the road they’ll be pretty quick to stop and help. Everybody is aware of the hazards with these wind chills.”
The temperature in Glasgow is expected to drop to 34 below zero Monday morning, he said, but added the wind chill will likely be about 40 or 45 below due to reduced wind speeds. He said people who live in northeastern Montana are typically well prepared for such cold weather events.
“We’re a hardy bunch,” he said.
Much of the rest of the eastern part of the state is under a wind chill advisory, meaning wind chills of 20 to 39 below zero.
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In Billings, the temperature was 3 below zero Sunday afternoon and had a wind chill of 21 below zero, said Kurt Hooley, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Billings.
“It isn’t that cold for us,” he said, noting the city recorded a temperature of 23 below zero in early December.
Ranch animals, Hooley said, typically handle cold weather well as long as it’s dry and they have some shelter from the wind.
“A cold dry air isn’t usually dangerous to them,” he said. “Ranchers have more problems if there’s a wet snow or rain.”
Calving season won’t start until February, he noted.
The Montana Department of Transportation on Sunday morning issued a warning for severe driving conditions for some highways in eastern Montana due to blowing snow.
But the Montana Highway Patrol said on Sunday afternoon that troopers across the state weren’t seeing an increase in problems reported by motorists traveling on Sunday.