TODAYs Weather Outlook
HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GREAT FALLS MT
434 AM MST SAT DEC 13 2008
THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL
MONTANA...NORTH CENTRAL MONTANA AND SOUTHWEST MONTANA.
DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT
A BLIZZARD WARNING IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM SATURDAY.
A WINTER STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM MST SATURDAY.
SEVERE WINTER CONDITIONS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE TO MOVE ACROSS CENTRAL AND NORTH CENTRAL MONTANA THROUGH TODAY AS AN UPPER LEVEL LOW TRACKS ACROSS THE INLAND NORTHWEST. THE WORST OF THESE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO OCCUR BEFORE NOON WITH DANGEROUS CONDITIONS PERSISTING THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THE DAY. THE MAIN IMPACTS FROM THIS STORM WILL BE REDUCED VISIBILITY DUE TO BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW...LOW WIND CHILL AND AMBIENT TEMPERATURES THROUGHOUT THE PERIOD...AND HEAVY SNOW ACCUMULATIONS.
DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...SUNDAY THROUGH FRIDAY
BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WILL CONTINUE IMPACT VISIBILITY. WIND SPEEDS AND SNOW WILL DIMINISH SATURDAY EVENING...HOWEVERTEMPERATURES WILL CONTINUE TO DROP...WITH VERY LOW WIND CHILLS AND AMBIENT TEMPERATURES THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT. TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN BELOW ZERO THROUGH AT LEAST MONDAY NIGHT. WIND CHILLS ARE EXPECTED TO BECOME A SERIOUS THREAT AND ADDITIONAL PRODUCTS SPECIFIC TO WIND CHILLS MAY BE ISSUED AS THE SITUATION PROGRESSES.
Winter Storm Warning
.BLIZZARD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM MST THIS
MORNING......WINTER STORM WARNING NOW IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 11 PM MST THIS EVENING...
THE WINTER STORM WARNING IS NOW IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 11 PM MST THIS EVENING. A BLIZZARD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 AM MST THIS MORNING.
STRONG NORTH TO NORTHWEST WINDS OF 30 TO 45 MPH ARE CREATING BLIZZARD CONDITIONS WITH VISIBILITIES LESS THAN 0NE QUARTER OF A MILE. THE STRONG WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE MORNING HOURS BEFORE DIMINISHING. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH THIS EVENING WILL RANGE FROM 7 TO 10 INCHES ON THE PLAINS AND VALLEYS WITH UP TO 18 INCHES IN THE MOUNTAINS. IN ADDITION... THE GUSTY WINDS WILL COMBINE WITH FALLING TEMPERATURES TO PRODUCE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. VERY COLD AIR WILL CONTINUE TO FILTER INTO THE REGION WITH TEMPERATURES NEAR 20 BELOW ZERO SUNDAY MORNING AND 30 BELOW ZERO BY MONDAY MORNING.
A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS...MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST...HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED...STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.
Yesterday: The town knew this was coming so we spent some time and energy preparing. I bought tape and fiberglass wrapping to install heat tape on my kitchen cold water pipe. Also, I’ve insulated the wall that my kitchen shares with the garage and stuffed the space under the kitchen door threshold with styrofoam and bubble wrap. Until last winter I had not understood that this gap was not even blocked with wood and in that cold snap ended up stuffing crumpled newspapers everywhere I could feel a breeze. This time no breeze.
Friday night: The winds were high enough that pieces of my house were blown off, but I don’t know exactly what because my door is blocked by a snowdrift and I don’t want to go out there anyway. The party crowd in the corner apartments was down to one pickup which left about 3AM after some difficulty pulling out through drifts.
Saturday morning: I’ve turned on a fortifying electric heater in the bathroom, which is the room farthest from the floor furnace. Gas pressure is down everywhere because of the high demand. The three communities closest to the east slope lost electric power for a while last night. Those would be Fairfield, Choteau and Augusta. No report from Heart Butte. I turned off the NPR station in Billings and went to the local AM station where they talk about the roads and so on. This means I’m listening to an ABC affiliate, which sounds like a totally different country than NPR. Funny Santa songs instead of famous Christmas oratorios.
The temp is sinking. Living room is below fifty. No newspaper came. No mail. I called Hastings in Great Falls to beg off the Book Festival today and tomorrow. I had really wanted to attend, not least because it would have meant a few book sales. All athletic events are canceled. Christmas events postponed.
A spelunking expedition under the floor revealed that my chink-plugging has been effective and the temp is relatively warm. I didn’t plug in the tape heater but did a bit more wrapping with fiberglass. The wind is moderating which means heat won’t be sucked out of the house so quickly.
When a storm is on the way, we get a few days of warm blowing with a wind arch standing in the sky, a rainbow shaped blue arc of clear sky where the wind is pushing high clouds back. We call it a “Chinook arch” because the warm wind that causes it is called a “Chinook wind,” after the Chinook tribe in the Northwest. Chinook is supposed to mean “snow eater.” Behind the mountains will be a “rain shelf” of purple clouds building up in a kind of shadow range, much higher and darker than the real mountains. They are too sodden to rise over the mountains, so it will be raining or snowing on the West side -- also many more days of darkness on that side. Imagine small cabins huddled in big trees while smoke pours out their chimneys. On this side the cabins are silvered and isolated, burning natural gas or propane.
I didn’t bother with gloves earlier so now my hands are prickling with fiberglass bits. There is traffic on the street. No signs of actual plowing in town, but I can hear the plows over on the highway. Emergency traffic only out there. Some of my neighbors feed cows, which is why they drive monster pickups with bull balls. They can’t afford to lose cows, which will survive cold only if they have enough to eat.
Early afternoon: There is still wind, still low visibility, still snow falling. It’s like something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I have a major advantage: more things to eat than the Ingalls family had. For one whole winter they ate cracked wheat mush at every meal. The Strachan family only ate cracked wheat mush at every breakfast. We only faced rain in Portland. Still, kids like to claim hardships, and I’m enough of a kid of an old lady to want to brag about this blizzard. How cold is it? TOOO cold! And gettin’ colder.