GREAT FALLS — Feet of snow have fallen and powerlines are down in the Rockies -- and it's only September. A winter storm is blowing through parts of the region this weekend, just days after the start of fall.
So far, some parts of Montana have received more than three feet of snow. Browning was blanketed by 23 inches and East Glacier Park by 21 on Saturday - and the snow is still falling on Sunday.
The National Weather Service's winter storm warning for portions of north central Montana is in effect until Monday morning. CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said in that time, another one to two feet of snow may fall.
Great Falls got a preliminary 9.7 inches of snow on Saturday, which will set a new daily snowfall record. That number would beat the previous record in 1954 by 3.6 inches.
And by Saturday morning, the town of Choteau was already experiencing downed trees and powerlines, making it dangerous for people on the road.
The potential to be historically significant
While snow in September may sound shocking in some parts of the country, Cabrera says that it is not that uncommon for the area. What is shocking is the amount, he said.
"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.
And the storm could bring near blizzard conditions, NWS said. Winds are predicted to gust at 35 to 45 mph on Sunday, Cabrera said. These winds, combined with the snow that is forecast, could lead to whiteout conditions.
"This has the potential to be a historically significant early-season snow event," the National Weather Service in Great Falls said.
The unexpected and destructive
The National Weather Service anticipates that the storm will bring damage as well as surprise.
"Very heavy wet snow and strong winds will lead to downed trees, power outages, and treacherous travel conditions," the weather service said.
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.
And 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."
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