It may be September, but winter is on its way.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Missoula issued their first winter weather warning of the season, heads up to a powerful and potentially “historic” storm expected to push in on Friday.
Mountain passes could receive up to four feet of snow as temperatures fall below freezing.
“Our confidence is definitely increasing with a very significant system moving in,” said Trent Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We can expect near record cold temperatures, substantial mountain snow, and cold damaging wind as the air rushes in.”
While snowfall amounts in Missoula won’t likely top two inches, impacts north and along the Continental Divide could be severe.
From Polebridge south to Butte, snowfall totals could be more than a foot.
“This system will have a significant amount of moisture associated with it, causing a lot of snow along the Continental Divide,” Smith said. “We’re anticipating anywhere from two to three feet, maybe even locally up to four feet.”
Overnight lows in Missoula will dive into the mid-20s by the weekend, while daytime highs struggle to hit 40 degrees. Other regions could see temperatures in the teens, including Seeley Lake and Lost Trail Pass.
Wind gusts on Friday could top 40 miles per hour as the front arrives. Damage to crops and urban gardens is expected.
“This amount of snow will make travel very difficult over passes,” said Smith. “With the leaves still on the trees, we’re looking at significant damage. Any tree branches that fall could cause impacts to power infrastructure.”