MONTANA — Just days after the start of fall, parts of the Rockies may soon be blanketed under as much as five feet of snow.
A winter storm warning is in effect until Monday morning for portions of north central Montana, the National Weather Service said. It may amount to as much as 30 inches in lower elevations, but the mountains could see three to five feet.
Near blizzard conditions are possible, the weather service said.
Snow in September is not so uncommon for the area, said CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera, but the amount expected is.
“If the forecast pans out, this would rival or surpass the 1934 winter storm which was for many areas the top early-season snowfall event on record,” Cabrera said.
Wind, waves and whiteout conditions
Winter weather conditions are expected for parts of Montanta, Wyoming and the Dakotas.
“This has the potential to be a historically significant early-season snow event,” the National Weather Service in Great Falls, Montana, said.
Sustained winds will be near tropical storm-force (over 39 mph+) with gusts possible over 60 mph. These winds, combined with the snow that is forecast, will lead to whiteout conditions.
With winds this strong and the sudden cold air interacting with the warmer mountain lake water, there is the chance for damaging waves across Flathead Lake.
“It’s very rare to have waves 6 feet or more on Flathead Lake, but it’s possible this Saturday,” said the National Weather Service in Missoula.
Montanans capture images of snow’s effects
Montanans didn’t waste time in showing how the snow is affecting them.
Carlene Whitney Salois took a picture of the accumulating snow and said the totals are “adding up.”
The National Weather Service in Great Falls tweeted out pictures from northern Montana showing highways with up to a foot of snow on the road.
Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Amanda Villa tweeted pictures of the dangerous impacts of snow with a car crash on a road in central Montana.
Agriculture and livestock at risk
Given the expected wet nature of the snow, a host of potentially dangerous impacts could result.
Widespread tree damage and downed power lines are possible, resulting in power outages. Agricultural damage could be caused by the record cold temperatures.
Livestock is also at risk and the National Weather Service warns, “make sure livestock and pets also have the essentials that they will need during the storm.”