Western MT weekend winter storm one for the record books

Oct 24 Winter Strom 2
Oct 24 Winter Storm 3
Posted at 10:59 AM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 12:59:12-04

MISSOULA — Our mid-autumn weekend winter storm was certainly one for the record books.

The snow totals of our late-October winter storm are impressive, to say the least, with widespread reports of a foot or more of snow in valley locations by noon Saturday. No matter where you were in western Montana this weekend, you witnessed a historic event.

“This truly was one of the most remarkable snow events we’ve had in the course of all of Missoula’s history regardless of month, this is the eighth heaviest snow,” explained National Weather Service Meteorologist Corby Dickerson.

The months of January and February are attached to seven if the top ten events, and only once -- back in 1914 -- has Missoula recorded more snowfall in one winter storm in October.

Two key factors lead to the heavy snow event. One, a previous cold front had dropped temperatures into the 20s ahead of the storm, and two, the arctic blast that came as part of this storm held off until much of the snow had fallen.

“When the arctic boundary comes in, it cuts the snowfall rate down, the wind cuts the crystals in half and just disintegrates them, and the accumulation goes down dramatically,” Dickerson said. “We had the perfect environment to produce a lot of snow.”

If you were to look at it from a purely statistical standpoint, history would suggest this will be the biggest snow event we see for the upcoming fall and winter, but of course, that book has yet to be written.


The snow wasn’t the only impressive weather story over the weekend.

“Our cooperative weather observer, and official observer in Potomac, Montana reported minus 29 degrees, 29 degrees below zero this morning which is one-degree shy of the all-time state record of 30-below which was recorded at Marias Pass Summit,” Dickerson told MTN News.

Mother Nature flexed her muscles this weekend but it doesn’t mean we’re in for a harsh winter. However, with a moderate La Nina weather pattern expected, colder and snowier than average weather conditions are likelier in the months to come.

Our morning low of -7 in Missoula on Sunday broke the all-time Missoula record low of -4 set on Oct. 24, 1917.