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Residents weather extreme cold

A cold snap settled over north-central Montana starting New Year's Day, producing some of the coldest temperatures in the nation. But people seem to be weathering the cold, according to emergency service providers in the area.

Jim Brusda, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls, said Havre's low was 33 below zero Sunday, but that wasn't the coldest spot in the lower 48 states. Harlem had that dubious honor with a temperature of 43 below zero.

Similar temperatures have swept the state since an arctic air mass settled in, Brusda said. The temperatures are expected to warm about the middle of the week, with highs in the Havre area near 30 degrees or higher.

Ron Knudson, director of disaster and emergency services for Hill County, said his office hasn't received calls reporting problems due to the cold.

He added that although recent winters have been relatively mild, most people who have lived in north-central Montana for long know how to deal with long periods of severe cold.

"It's been a few years, but we know how to do it," he said.

Brusda said north-central Montana most recently experienced several days of extreme cold in January, February and March of 2002. Those periods each included four to eight days with temperatures below zero, including a low of 25 below on Jan. 22 and 31 below zero on Feb. 24.

Peggy Ford of Heltne's Servicenter said the service station responded to a few calls asking for help starting cars this morning, but that that isn't unusual.

"It happens every time there's a cold snap," she said.

Havre police Lt. George Tate said Havre police officers have been helping people when their vehicles have stalled in the streets because of the cold. The officers have been clearing stalled traffic from streets and intersections and giving rides to stranded motorists as needed, he said.

Havre Assistant Fire Chief Tim Ranes said the Fire Department hasn't had to respond to any cold-related emergencies.

"Actually it's been pretty quiet for us," he said.

Hill County sanitarian Clay Vincent said people seem to be staying home because of the cold. He said he canceled a trip he was going to make to Helena early this week.

People who are traveling need to be sure to prepare, he added, and pack extra food, clothing, battery cables and the like.

"You're really putting your life in jeopardy even if you have a small problem," he said.

Another weather-related issue is wildlife coming into town. Vincent said herds of deer have been seen as far into town as 14th Street and 10th Avenue. He said people need to know the deer shouldn't be fed or they will keep coming into town.

Claudia Sears-Rapkoch, spokeswoman for NorthWestern Energy, said the company hasn't had calls related to the cold, but has responded to problems related to blowing snow - people have lost their heat due to covered vents.

When snow covers appliance vents, like furnace exhaust vents, that can cause problems both by keeping heaters from working and by causing a potentially fatal buildup of carbon monoxide, she said.

Brusda said Montana continues to be the coldest spot in the lower 48 states for now.

All of Montana's temperatures hadn't been recorded early this morning, but he said it appeared West Yellowstone would be the coldest spot in the lower 48 states today with 43 below zero. That also breaks West Yellowstone's record of 41 below zero set in 1970.

Havre had a low of 26 below as of 6 a.m. today.

North-central Montana had a wind-chill advisory in effect through noon today, with a lesssevere wind-chill warning in effect through 6 a.m. Tuesday. The warnings and advisories are put in place when the combination of wind and cold temperatures create dangerous conditions for exposed skin.

The temperatures will gradually warm over the week, with a chinook wind bringing much warmer temperatures Wednesday or Thursday, Brusda said.

The farther from the Rocky Mountain Front, the colder the temperatures are expected to be. Temperatures could be in the 40s near the Front, but are more likely to be in the 30s near Havre and in the teens near Glasgow, Brusda said.

The warmer weather is expected to last into early next week. Brusda said that by the middle of next week, temperatures are expected to return to near normal, with highs in the mid-20s and lows at about 5 degrees in Havre.

The Weather Service predicts a 20 percent chance of precipitation Wednesday and a 20 percent to 30 percent chance Saturday.

 

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