Snow followed by freezing temps expected in Montana over holiday weekend

Temps next week could approach -20 in some places

By: - December 23, 2021 12:47 pm

With snow, wind and cold on the way, holiday travelers will need to be especially diligent navigating highways and passes while skiers may benefit from better riding conditions.

Starting Thursday afternoon, a cold front that plans to stick around to the middle of next week will be making its way through Montana, according to NWS Meteorologist Dan Zumpfe. Forecasts also show a 70 percent chance of snow around Missoula starting the same afternoon.

“We’re expecting some quick bursts of snow, reducing visibility down to like a quarter of a mile for a time and producing some snow rates over one inch per hour,” Zumpfe said.

12/23/2021 weather forecast courtesy of the National Weather Service

Over the weekend and into early next week, impressive snowfall is expected west of the Divide with bigger tolls in northwest Montana near the Cabinet and Bitterroot mountains. The Continental Divide and Montana/Idaho border could see anywhere from 12 to 24 inches of snow. And along the Interstate 90 corridor, travelers can expect around 5 inches, Zumpfe said.

For holiday travelers the weather is not ideal as the NWS is predicting periods of whiteout, blowing snow, and difficult travel conditions along the I-90, Montana Highway 83 and 200 corridors, and along US 12, 93, 95 and Montana Highway 1.

By the middle of next week, Zumpfe said across the state there is a possibility of temps from zero to -20 degrees.

“It’s going to be a series of systems that’s  bringing the cold air down,” he said. “And unlike some other weather events, this one is going to be a slow burn, day after day of the slow build up of snow. And wind conditions and cold air is just going to keep coming … until probably towards the end of next week.”

Cold temps are also expected in Billings by the end of the weekend and into early next week. Over the course of the weekend, the mercury is expected drop from 50 degrees to the single digits by Sunday along with a 40 percent chance of snow going into the weekend, according to NWS Billings Meteorologist Bob Setzenfand.

While these conditions have been absent from the state in recent years, they are not uncommon for this time of year and the cold temps do not compete with past record lows.

“The last week of December tends to be the coldest week climatologically over the years for this part of the country. So these temperatures, while they seem pretty dramatic … they’re not even really registering on record low temperatures,” Zumpfe said.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .