Blizzard pelts north-central Montana; some schools closed

Posted at 11:41 AM, Nov 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-08 20:52:53-05

A blizzard moving through north-central Montana this weekend is causing dangerous road conditions, widespread power outages and school closures. The Montana Department of Transportation and the National Weather Service are discouraging people from traveling unless it's absolutely necessary.

Several rural school districts will be closed on Monday, November 9, due to the weather. They include:

  • Geyser Public School
  • Simms High School
  • Fort Shaw Elementary
  • Cascade School
  • Centerville School

Parents in Havre Public Schools will find out if Monday is a remote learning day by 6:30 a.m. that morning, through Infinite Campus messenger.

A Blizzard Warning was in effect starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday through 6 a.m. on Monday for north-central Montana. For a storm to technically be a blizzard, it needs to have sustained wind of 35 miles per hour or greater, visibility of a quarter a mile or less, and sustain these conditions for at least three hours. A blizzard does not require heavy snowfall, but snow is a big part of reducing visibility. A blizzard doesn't require severe cold, either.

Wind gusts are between 40 and 60 miles per hour across the region, and whiteout conditions have set in. Visibility will be near zero at times.

The National Weather Service in Great Falls expected 11 inches of snowfall in Great Falls and seven inches in Helena through Sunday evening. As of noon Sunday, Havre had 11.5 inches, with significant drifts in some areas well into the two to three foot range. We'll keep you updated on snowfall totals as they're reported.

Interstate 15 north of Power was fully blocked as of 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, due to crashes, and dangerous road conditions were reported as far north as the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

There are several power outages in and around Great Falls — click here for details. Several transformers reportedly exploded. We received lots of questions about flashing lights around Great Falls on Saturday night; NorthWestern Energy said most of the flashing lights were probably caused by arcing wires slapping together in the high wind, causing them to spark.

Flashing lights in Great Falls caused by flailing power lines

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.