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It Could Be the Start of a Brutal Winter

Officially, the first day of fall started less than a week ago, on September 23. However, we could be looking at the beginning of an especially brutal and cold winter here in Montana.

Last year, our conditions were mild during the last part of the year. Our temperatures and snowfall amounts held true to averages. This was a departure from the weather for the last several years when cold temperature records and snowfall amounts were broken almost every year.

It did catch up to us. We had a particularly cold and snowy February and March. The additional heavy precipitation helped us, going into the spring and summer of 2019 and helped to keep this a tremendously mild fire-year.

The indications are that we are about to get back to the colder, snowier, longer winter we’ve been seeing for about a decade now. Normally, our cold weather doesn’t begin until late October. However, warnings are up for this weekend, ahead of the first of October, for severe winter weather.

The weather.com site is calling this a “Historic September Snowstorm”. For accuracy, September snowstorms have occurred in Montana before, so I’m not sure that the label really fits. We might not know that until the storm is finished.

However, they are predicting that many locations in Montana will receive over a foot of snow and blizzard warnings have been posted. They are also predicting that the combination of heavy, wet snow and high winds will cause damage to trees and the power grid. Power outages are expected.

That isn’t even the worst of it. Our temperatures are also due to plunge, breaking and possibly shattering cold temperature records. High winds and low temperatures result in dangerous wind chill temperatures.

All of this is a result of a strong polar jetstream that is flowing out of the Gulf of Alaska down to around the Bay area of California. As the jetstream dips, it will allow frigid arctic air to flow southward and as the jetstream moves east, it will draw considerable moisture from the Pacific Ocean.

Abnormally cold and snowy weather is expected to occur in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. This weather could extend even farther south and will gradually work its way east and southeast. Looking at the projections, and if they are accurate, the worst part of the storm will probably hit east of here, in the Bitterroot Valley and up beyond Glacier National Park. That part isn’t unusual. However, it isn’t common for a large storm like this to hit this early in the year and we will still probably get the cold and snow even in my location.

This sort of severe, unsettled air could also lead to thunderstorms. Thankfully, we’ve had two days of heavy rainfall, so the forests are relatively damp.

Normally, the weather service doesn’t issue strong warnings in Montana, but over half of the state is under winter storm watch, winter weather advisory or winter storm warning postings. It definitely sounds like this is going to be a major storm (or storms, since it won’t be a single storm, just a single storm front).

The northern Rocky Mountains are about to get slammed, people. Then the storms will move east. It could trigger severe weather throughout the US, including the southeast.

  • Would you be concerned if you got a hazardous blizzard and winter weather warning?

    • Yes
    • No
    • We never get blizzards or hazardous snowfalls
  • If you live in the north, are you ready for a major winter storm this early in the year?

    • Yes
    • No
    • It feels like it is too early for a major winter storm
    • I don’t live in the north or where I’d have to worry about severe weather

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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15 Comments

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  1. Hope you weathered it well. Here in Canada the Prairies were warned of a breaking snowfall along with a lowering wind chill factor for this just past weekend. I have not checked if it came true or not. Here in the Outaouais valley, the nights were cool to cold but sunny during daytime with an average of 15 degrees Celsius so very tolerable…

  2. I choose to prepare rather than worry. I can only prepare for the worst, hope for the best and plow on through it. We thought we would wake up to snow this morning, but it didn’t happen. I am certain it will come and I hope we are truly prepared.
    ~ We have the generators and gas ready to go.
    ~ We have 60 days worth of medications
    ~ We have enough water for 90 days
    ~ We have alternative fuel for heat
    ~ We have great friends that we can reach by phone or radio
    ~ It may not be fun and hopefully we will make it through until spring.

    • It sounds like you’ve prepared well. We are limited in what we can do, here. I have no generator and can’t afford one, our only heat is electric, but we are otherwise well-situated. It helps, being avid campers. We should be able to weather the storm.

    • When this moves through, it will unfortunately probably hit you, too. It depends on how strong the high-pressure ridge that is south of you right now is. This is early for a major snowstorm. Today is being spent mostly getting ready for it.

  3. I don’t live in the USA but in Auckland, our summers for the past 3 years have been extremely dry and every year the temperatures go up. Our summer is often up in the 90 degree humidity.
    It affects me quite badly, we are surrounded by water and that may have something to do with the humidity.
    We had more rain than usual in August but we were actually told to conserve our water.

    Montana seems a very interesting place..

    • We had a lot of rain this year…actually just above average. Except for last year, though, our winters have been getting colder, snowier, and longer for 10 of the past 12 years. If this storm hits like it is expected to, a lot of snowfall and cold temperature records are going to be broken, all over the state.

        • Climate is always changing. It can’t do otherwise since the earth is dynamic and not static. However, this is weather change rather than climate change. It won’t affect climate until a century of weather phenomenon can be averaged. Even though we did get our abnormally early snowfall, if it was averaged in with the other weather data for the last 99 years, it would hardly be noticeable.

          For 10 of the last 12 years, we’ve had longer, colder, snowier winters than average in Montana and the northern US. Still, this isn’t climate, it is a trend. If it continues for a couple of decades, then it would impact the climate data.

          Incidentally, in my location, it wasn’t as bad as predicted. In some places in Montana, it was worse than predicted. Despite the equipment that is used, much of weather forecasting and climate predictions are still based on guesswork.

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