Windy weather


Wind was roaring through the state Tuesday with the Havre-area getting its fair share, uprooting trees, taking out power and even closing schools in north-central Montana. Darin Hannum, vice principal of Box Elder High School and assistant superintendent for the Box Elder District, said the schools there were closed shortly after the day started. "About 9 a.m. we lost power, and we did not get it back till about 8:10 last night," he said. That closed the school, with no electricity and no water. Students were back in class this morning, with power restored and everything coming back to normal. The school was restoring all of its computer network this morning, Hannum said. Denise Kovavich of Hill County Electric said the cooperative has had crews out round the clock since Monday night working to restore power. The worst-hit areas were south of Chinook and east of the Sweet Grass Hills, she said. She said that, as of this morning, the number of people who had lost power, and how many still were out of power, was not known. "It was just continous, ongoing," Kovavich said. "It was pretty much across the entire service area for Hill County Electric," from Chester to Chinook and south to Big Sandy. T h e Ha v r e Pu b l i c Wo r k s Department also was busy, with the wind uprooting trees and causing general mayhem t h r o u g h o u t the city. Some power p o l e s a l s o were knocked down in town, with NorthWestern Energy handling those problems. The problem crossed most of the state east of the Continental Divide, with winds picking up in Montana Monday and high wind warnings going into effect Tuesday. The winds seem to have died down today, with areas on the Rocky Mountain Front into north-central Montana and into the southwestern part of the state now under winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings. The winds were strong enough to tip tractor-trailers onto their sides near Florence and Helena. No one was seriously injured in a Big rig crash on U.S. Highway 93 near Florence, which happened at about 5:15 p.m. Monday. Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Rocky Bailey said a gust caught the 35-foot trailer and lifted it off the ground. "It flipped on its right side and slid about 180 feet," Bailey said. "It stopped, blocking both northbound lanes." The driver, Frank Briggs, was wearing a seat belt and was able to walk away from the wreck, Bailey said. His trailer was carrying about 5,500 pounds of lead bullets. "If he'd had a heavier load, he'd have stayed on the ground," Bailey said. Tractor-trailers also ended up on their sides Tuesday on Interstate 15, one near Craig at about 9 a.m. and one near Montana City at about 11 a.m. The patrol says no one was injured in either crash. Winds driven by a large low pressure area in the northeastern part of the state uprooted trees, including one that fell onto a brick house near Echo Lake owned by Andrew and Rosemary Kovatch. In Billings, pine trees were uprooted, a billboard was twisted and a downed power line blocked a road. In Butte, an uprooted tree fell against a house. A roof blew off a house in the Townsend area, said Broadwater County Sheriff Brenda Ludwig. Scattered power outages were reported across the state, including Mal ta, Bi l l ings, Glasgow, Great Falls and Helena, said Claudia Rapkoch, spokeswoman for NorthWestern Energy. "Wherever the wind is blowing, we're getting calls," she said Tuesday. Rapkoch said crews have restored power to several thousand customers who reported outages Monday, but more outages were reported Tuesday as the wind brought down trees and limbs into power lines. The number of homes and businesses in the dark could not be immediat e ly de t e rmined, Rapkoch said. As many as 150 customers north of Great Falls have been without power since a spring snowstorm hit last week. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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