Snowfall eases, but conditions still treacherous

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AMY BALDWIN submitted this photo of her neighbor Jeff, who was one of the “snow angels” plowing out her Meridian Road neighborhood.

Arctic weather continued blasting Northwest Montana Saturday.

While the storm looks set to taper off for the start of the new year, the Flathead Valley finished 2017 under a thick blanket of snow.

The National Weather Service’s Missoula office told the Daily Inter Lake that 13.2 inches had accumulated at Glacier Park International Airport since Wednesday; other observation posts around Kalispell reported 11 to 16 inches.

18 inches have been recorded in West Glacier, and at higher elevations, “we’ve gotten reports of anywhere from two to three feet of snow,” said Weather Service meteorologist Trent Smith.

He added that this snowfall “hasn’t even cracked the top 50 [storms] for a three-day snow total.”

Even so, the accumulation has made for treacherous conditions on area roadways.

As of Saturday afternoon, the Montana Department of Transportation reported that most key highways were covered with some amount of snow and ice, and that blowing, drifting, and reduced visibility were common. The stretch of U.S. 2 east of Columbia Falls, between Nyack and Summit, was found to be in “severe driving condition.”

Jason Fredenberg, a trooper with the Montana Highway Patrol, estimated that there had been “well over 20” accidents, including cars sliding off the road, in the valley. The Whitefish Police Department logged several vehicles stuck or struggling in the snow.

Brian Heino, patrol commander with the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, said that snowplows would be running Sunday.

Even as the flakes kept falling, Flathead Valley residents helped one another cope with these challenges. Amy Baldwin of Kalispell said that some of her neighbors had been hard at work keeping things clear near her home on Meridian Road. “It makes me just want to put up a sign on our corner and say this is the best corner in Kalispell,” she said.

The National Weather Service projected snowfall to taper off Saturday night, and temperatures to stay in the teens with wind chill values reaching below zero Sunday. Temperatures will likely climb into the 20s as the week progresses.

The Daily Inter Lake was unable to deliver Saturday’s paper on schedule due to the driving conditions during the early morning Saturday. The paper will be delivered along with Sunday’s edition, conditions permitting.

For up-to-date forecasts and readings, visit the website of the National Weather Service’s Missoula Office, www.weather.gov/missoula. For travel conditions, visit the Montana Department of Transportation’s Montana Road Report Map, https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/map/mtmap_frame.html.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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