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Weekend blizzard misses Hi-Line

A potential blizzard that could have repeated a storm that came through north-central Montana three weeks ago turned out to be just a blip in the weekend weather.

The center of a large storm primarily pushed south and east of the Hi-Line.

The storm did lead to some power outages in the region, although none as severe as the blizzard that hit March 19.

NorthWestern Energy spokesperson Michelle Sullivan said this morning that a burning power pole took out service to about 450 of the company's customers in North Havre for about three-and-a-half hours Friday afternoon, and other customers lost power between Malta and Glasgow and in the Saco area.

By Friday morning, the National Weather Service had upgraded a blizzard watch to a blizzard warning, and expanded its reach to a wider area. The original watch was issued for Chouteau, Hill, Blaine, Phillips and Valley counties, and was expanded to include Judith Gap, Fergus and Garfield counties.

Great Falls Weather Service Meteorologist Don Emanuel said this morning that the storm dropped some heavy snow in Judith Gap and Fergus counties, but the conditions on the Hi-Line were much less severe than expected.

Data on the amount of snow that fell in Havre was not available this morning, but Emanuel said Lewistown saw 7 inches to 8 inches fall, with a site two miles east of the town receiving 9 inches, and more falling in the mountains in that region. One station reported 13 inches of snow, he said.

The southwest also saw some heavy snow. While Great Falls saw about 5 inches drop, with most melting as it fell, and 6 inches falling in Helena, some of the higher elevations in the southwest received 12 inches to 18 inches of snow, Emanuel said.

The largest benefit for the Hi-Line was the lower windspeeds, he added. The blizzard warning was primarily put in place due to expected 25 mph to 35 mph winds, with gusts in the forecast for up to 50 mph.

When the storm played out, the winds were much lower, with the highest speed recorded at 20 mph and the highest gust at 24 mph.

Sullivan reported that electrical service to North Havre was restored about 6:15 p. m. after NorthWestern Energy personnel repaired the insulators, cutouts and wire.

The power in the Saco area, with problems in substations and about four downed lines, went out about 2:50 p. m. Friday and was restored to most in about four-and-a-half hours.

Heavy snow and wind downed two poles between Malta and Glasgow. Sullivan said power had been restored to most NorthWestern Energy customers there by about 11 p. m., with a few customers still without power at that time.

Information as to whether customers of Hill County Electric had any power outages during the storm was not available by deadline this morning.

The storm and power problems paled compared to the blizzard March 19, which rapidly dropped more than a foot of snow in the area, with high winds reducing visibility to near zero feet at times and power wiped out for six hours in Havre and several days in some parts of the region.


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