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Q2 Weather: High winds causing wildfire concerns in Billings area

Posted at 3:18 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 17:18:34-05

BILLINGS — The big story Tuesday is high wind across much of south-central Montana, including the cities of Billings and Laurel. In fact, you can see some of the dust blowing from Laurel toward Billings.

At 2 p.m., the temperature in Billings was 56 degrees, and the wind was out of the northwest at 35 mph gusting to 46 mph. Indeed, south-central Montana had the windiest places in the state Tuesday afternoon.

Wind gusts ranged from 39 mph in Livingston to 46 mph in Billings. Plus, we still have a high Wind Advisory for the Beartooth foothills until 11 p.m. Wednesday. Winds could gust to 65 mph.

To the northeast around Glendive, we have the ice jam that is causing a Flash Flood threat for Glendive and snow melting in McCone County as causing flooding near Circle.

And look at all the high winds across the rest of Montana and the eastern Divide. We have a High Wind Warning for winds gusting to 60 to 70 mph across most of eastern Montana.

And because of the high wind, high temperature and low humidity, we have a Red Flag Warning for much of south-central Montana. That does include Billings. Should a wildfire get going, it could burn out of control in a hurry under these conditions.

The only saving grace is that we do have a minor weather disturbance moving across south-central and southeastern Montana Tuesday afternoon, and it's been producing some scattered light rain showers and no thunderstorms.

However, the wind is helping to push most of that shower activity out of the region Tuesday afternoon. The wind is being caused by a large volume of air at the mid-levels dropping down to the surface. We call it subsidence.

This kicks up the wind and then creates a sort of vacuum. So, it pulls more air up over the mountains and down across south-central Montana to fill in the gap, kicking up the winds.

We do expect a new cold front to move into south-central Montana on Wednesday morning. As it tracks into the state, it should take the rain and snow and the wind along with it.

By Thursday, the wind should be dying down, the sun will come out andthe temperatures will go up.

In fact, will see 50s for high temperatures Wednesday and Thursday up to 66 degrees on Friday and then back to the 40s on Sunday and Monday.

BILLINGS FORECAST

TONIGHT: High wind warning in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Increasing clouds and wind. West winds 10 to 20 mph gusting to 40 mph this evening. Low 35 degrees.

WEDNESDAY: Mostly sunny and windy in the afternoon. West winds 15 to 25 mph gusting to 60 mph. High 56 degrees.

THURSDAY: Mostly sunny, warm and not as windy. Southwest winds 5 to 15 mph. High 53 degrees.