Valley digs out from Arctic blast

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A man walks a dog along 6th Avenue East in Kalispell on Friday, Feb. 8. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Northwest Montana was hunkered down Saturday as another push of Arctic air brought sub-zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills to the region.

The winter blast offered a bit of deja vu for area residents, as it packed a similar punch to a storm that hit the region just a week ago.

The brunt of the wind came Friday night into Saturday morning, with a gust of 51 mph recorded at Glacier Park International Airport Friday evening. State road crews declared severe driving conditions due to blowing snow and reduced visibility on West Reserve Drive and Whitefish Stage Road in Kalispell, and on U.S. 2 from Montana 40 to Columbia Falls. Flathead County closed several roads due to drifting Friday night.

According to the Flathead Sheriff’s Office, county crews on Saturday afternoon were still working to clear drifted east and west roads. Northern areas of the county were affected the most.

Several vehicles were reportedly in ditches, which was inhibiting plowing operations.

Wind chills of minus 23 were recorded at the airport Saturday afternoon as temperatures struggled to climb above zero in the valley.

At Whitefish Mountain Resort, the main chair lift was closed due to the extreme weather. A wind chill of minus 38 was reported at the summit of Big Mountain and high temperatures never climbed above minus 10. Ski programs were canceled for the day, and the resort said it planned to make a game-time decision for ski programs on Sunday.

A wind chill advisory was put in place through Sunday morning. The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes in most areas, except toward Columbia Falls, where it could be as little as 10 minutes, the National Weather Service advised.

Some relief is in the forecast for temperatures today and Monday, the National Weather Service in Missoula reports. Highs today will climb to about 10 in the valley, and it will be in the teens Monday. However, more snow is possible, with 1 to 3 inches by Sunday afternoon. Yet, another low-pressure system will move over the area late Sunday, providing snow Sunday night through Monday with an additional 1 to 3 inches possible.

A third surge of moisture is in the forecast for Monday night through Tuesday night. This could be a heavy snow event for western Montana, the National Weather Service warned.

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