MISSOULA — All right, ready or not the first winter storm of the season is on tap this afternoon through Saturday morning.
Snow will start in northwest Montana early afternoon then pick up in intensity and move into west-central and southwest Montana by late afternoon and evening.
Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories have been issued for all of western Montana. Below is a list of the most likely impacts with this early season storm.
Northwest Montana: Snow amounts of 2"-to-4" in far northwest Montana (Eureka, Troy, Libby also the West Glacier Region). 3"-to-6" for the Flathead and Mission valleys. Strong winds also look to arrive here later this evening with gusts around 40-45 mph. This could lead to blowing and drifting snow along with difficult driving conditions.
West-Central Montana: 5"-to-9" possible along the I-90 corridor. 8"-to-12" for The Seeley Lake/Potomac Region. The Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains could see 1-2 feet. Winds could also gust up to 40-50 mph Saturday morning with blizzard conditions possible for Hellgate Canyon, East Missoula, Downtown Missoula and Rattlesnake Canyon.
Southwest Montana: Snow will start here last but continue the longest. Heavy snow looks likely with 6"-to-10" for the Butte/Blackfoot Region (Georgetown Lake, Philipsburg, Ananconda). The Bitterroot Valley remains a bit uncertain. As touched on yesterday temperatures will be able to warm into the upper 30s to low 40s Friday. Models right now actually have precipitation starting out as snow, then changing to a rain/snow mix or all rain before turning back to snow. If this happens this will lead to much smaller snow totals through the Bitterroot Valley in the 2"-to-5" range. If precipitation can remain all snow then totals of 6"to-9" will be possible.
After the snow comes to an end Saturday afternoon, record-breaking cold air will settle in. Highs will only top out in the 20s Saturday and Sunday. Lows Sunday and Monday morning will be in the double-digit negatives along the Continental Divide and single-digit negatives for the rest of western Montana.
After all this, temperatures will rebound next week. Cold air will still impact western Montana to start the week. High will then return to the 40s and 50s by Wednesday and Thursday.