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Governor declares winter storm emergency


September 27, 2019

Havre Daily News/Derek Hann

A truck drives through slushy snow on Third Street this afternoon. Gov. Steve Bullock declared an emergency this morning due to the early heavy snowstorm that has downed power lines, damaged trees and restricted traffic in some parts of the state.

Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order today declaring a winter storm emergency for Montana due to a severe early season storm which has hit the state this weekend.  

"With an unprecedented winter storm throwing our state a surprise in September, state and local governments are working closely together to protect the health and safety of Montanans and our top priority is making sure that happens," Bullock said in a press release. "Montanans should heed all warnings from state and local officials, travel safely, and be cautious during this time."

The press release says that the areas hardest hit by the storm include Cascade, Flathead, Glacier, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Pondera, and Teton counties and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

It added that the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier County, and Pondera County have issued local emergency declarations, allowing only emergency vehicles to travel in those areas.

National Weather Service listed a civil emergency for Pondera County and the Blackfeet Nation due to their declarations.

It also lists a blizzard warning for Northern Rocky Mountain Front, Southern Rocky Mountain Front and Eastern Glacier through 6 p.m. today and a winter storm warning through 6 a.m. Monday.

The press release from the governors office said state agencies were able to preposition equipment and prioritize road clearing in cooperation with local jurisdictions. Given the proximity to Glacier National Park, the Blackfeet Nation has a shelter on standby for stranded motorists. 

The Montana State Emergency Coordination Center is working with all counties in the storm path to identify needs to critical lifeline services such as energy, communications, transportation, and emergency food, water and shelter services. The release said the State Emergency Coordination Center is still receiving declarations of emergencies from local and tribal jurisdictions.

"The emergency order allows the utilization of all necessary state government services, equipment and suppliers to further the efforts of local governments in protecting the health and safety of Montanans," it said. "With the order, state resources can be mobilized to impacted counties with eligible expenses for emergency protective measures and debris removal."

The storm brought heavy, wet snow, with accumulation reaching amounts up to 3 feet in some areas, it said. The snow fall is also matched with high winds which have downed a number of trees and power lines, resulting in road closures, emergency travel conditions, intermittent cellular service and power outages. 

"Unseasonably cold temperatures will delay snowmelt in some areas and bring the end of the growing season for some agricultural producers," it added. "The storm also has the potential to cause flooding in Montana."

The Havre area was not hit has bad as some parts of the state in this storm, but two years ago, a surprise winter storm Oct. 2-3 knocked out power - for more than a week for some people in north-central Montana - damaged trees and blocked roads.

Bullock said today that the state was fortunate to have known ahead of time of this year's storm.

"We were fortunate to receive several days of notice from the National Weather Service - which did a good job predicting the size and magnitude of this storm," Bullock said.

The National Weather Service's forecast for Havre this afternoon is rain and snow, becoming all snow after 4 p.m. It added that after 4 p.m. it is predicting patchy blowing snow. The high is expected to be near 34 degrees. East-northeast wind may be between 17 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph. The chance of precipitation will be 90 percent with a possible total daytime snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches.

Tonight, it said, the forecast is for more rain and snow, with snow after 7 p.m. The low temperature will be around 25 degrees, with east-northeast winds from 8 to 15 mph becoming westerly after midnight, with winds having the possibility to gust as high as 30 mph. 

The chance of precipitation for Havre is 100 percent with 1 to 3 inches of additional accumulation of snow possible.

In Blaine County, a the National Weather Service predicts patchy blowing snow after 4 p.m. and rain and snow tonight, with a high near 33 degrees. East-northeast wind 15 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 37 mph, are expected. The chance of precipitation is 90 percent, with a total daytime snow accumulation of less than one inch possible. Tonight, the low will be around 26 degrees. East-northeast wind from 7 to 13 mph becoming west after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100 percent with a possible 1 to 2 inches of snow accumulating overnight. 

Liberty County is predicted to have patchy blowing snow today, with a high of 33 degrees and northeast winds around 22 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. The chance of precipitation is 100 percent with a possible total daytime snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches.

Tonight will see more patchy, blowing snow before 9 p.m. with a low around 22 degrees and northeast winds predicted to blow between 8 to 18 mph, becoming northwest after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 32 mph. The chance of precipitation is 100 percent with a possible 1 to 3 inches of snow accumulating overnight.

Chouteau County is expected to have rain before 4 p.m,  followed by rain and snow. The area will be expected to experience a high of 35 degrees F and have northeast winds from 13 to 17 mph with gusts as high as 30 mph. The chance of precipitation is 90 percent with a predicted total of less than half an inch of snow accumulating over the day. Tonights forecast is rain and snow, becoming all snow after 7 p.m. with a low of 25 degrees and northeast winds at 5 to 14 mph becoming westerly after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 24 mph. The chance of precipitation is 90 percent with a less than 1 inch of snow expected to fall overnight. 

Blaine, Liberty, Chouteau and Hill counties all have a possibility of snowfall Monday. The Havre Daily News will be closed Monday, Sept. 30, to avoid having its carries have to deal with the weather conditions.


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