Flathead digs out from winter blast

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  • Deneb Linton, right, and Felix Ebbett have a friendly snowball fight in Whitefish on Wednesday. Schools in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and West Glacier were canceled Wednesday after a snowstorm hit the area. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Deneb Linton, center, is hit with a snowball during a friendly snowball fight with Signe Ebbett, left, and Felix Ebbett, right, in Whitefish on Wednesday. Schools in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and West Glacier were canceled Wednesday after a snowstorm hit the area. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Judy Baker, of Kalispell, pulls her son Atticus, 3, to the top of the hill at Lawrence Park on Tuesday, Dec. 19. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • Deneb Linton, right, and Felix Ebbett have a friendly snowball fight in Whitefish on Wednesday. Schools in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and West Glacier were canceled Wednesday after a snowstorm hit the area. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Deneb Linton, center, is hit with a snowball during a friendly snowball fight with Signe Ebbett, left, and Felix Ebbett, right, in Whitefish on Wednesday. Schools in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and West Glacier were canceled Wednesday after a snowstorm hit the area. (Matt Baldwin/Daily Inter Lake)

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    Judy Baker, of Kalispell, pulls her son Atticus, 3, to the top of the hill at Lawrence Park on Tuesday, Dec. 19. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

The Flathead Valley began digging out Wednesday morning following the first major snowstorm of the season.

A few area school districts canceled classes due to treacherous driving conditions on snow and ice-covered roads. Columbia Falls, Whitefish and West Glacier schools all were closed Wednesday.

Snow totals across Northwest Montana were impressive.

Columbia Falls tallied a foot of new snow in the storm, according to the National Weather Service in Missoula, while West Glacier and Hungry Horse had about 17 inches.

Kalispell set a record for the day with 10.4 inches of snow in the 24-hour period, topping the previous record for Dec. 19 of 10 inches set in 1920, according to the Weather Service.

Essex took the brunt of the storm. The tiny mountain town along the southern edge of Glacier National Park tallied 40 inches of new snow.

Other area snow totals included: Eureka with 14 inches, Libby with 14 inches, Polson with 10 inches, Bigfork with 9 inches and Trout Creek with 12 inches.

Following a respite Thursday, more nasty winter weather is expected to blow through the area Friday night and Saturday morning. The National Weather Service is calling for moderate to heavy snowfall with blowing and drifting snow impacting the Flathead Valley. Some wind gusts could create localized “ground blizzards.”

Saturday night could be the coldest of the season with lows dipping below zero. Another shot of snow is predicted for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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