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Montana road conditions can challenge drivers as spring unfolds

Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-21 14:13:11-04

BOZEMAN – Big Sky Country is a place where you can see all four seasons in a day, especially in the spring. This forces drivers to become experts on the road.

Road and weather conditions in the month of April can change and will – mile by mile and minute by minute.

“When you get up in the mountain passes along Bozeman Pass temperatures are going to be varying drastically. 10-to-15 degrees colder up there than it’s going to be down here,” Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Tyler Brant said. “The weather can also sometimes sit up on the passes rather than here in the Valley where it can move pretty quickly.”

It’s not uncommon that we have to deal with four different types of precipitation which include rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.

Precipitation commonly starts as snow and ice well above our heads, then melts as it passes through a warm layer on its way down to the surface, a subfreezing layer at the ground makes the raindrop freeze on contact making it freezing rain, when the subfreezing layer is deeper the drop can refreeze on the way down forming sleet, if the air is below freezing all the way down to the ground we get snow.

“That temperature threshold between 28 and 30 degrees is what we typically see when we start to see the water start to freeze on the roadways,” Trooper Brant said. “So it can kind of sneak up on folks, so it can be indicative of what we see as black ice really.

“The best way to be avoiding that is whenever you see those temperatures coming down to those areas or even if you’re driving in an area In the higher mountain passes in shaded corners is to be very prepared for the unexpected especially with that surface being slick and icy rather than the wet conditions that you may be seeing early in the drive.”

-Carson Vickroy reporting for MTN News