Heavy snow and sub-zero wind chills expected this weekend

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Snow blankets Central Avenue in this Pilot file photo.

Another shot of brutally cold Arctic air similar to what hit Northwest Montana last weekend is poised to invade the region Friday night into Saturday. Heavy snow and sub-zero wind chills are likely, the National Weather Service in Missoula warned, creating dangerous travel conditions through the weekend.

“We are looking at another Arctic event this weekend and it will be similar to what we saw last weekend,” meteorologist Luke Robinson said in a press briefing Thursday.

Moderate snow is possible ahead of the front, with 4-6 inches predicted for the Flathead Valley by Friday.

“This will be a light, fluffy snow, so it will add to transportable snow before the front arrives,” Robinson said.

Conditions will quickly deteriorate Friday evening into Saturday. That’s when blowing and drifting snow, and dangerously frigid wind chills will be possible. The Flathead Valley will wake up to sub-zero temperatures and wind gusts of 40 to 45 mph Saturday morning.

“At this time, wind chills will start to become a concern,” Robinson said.

The National Weather Service is calling for wind chill values of minus 30 in Kalispell, down to minus 40 in the West Glacier region. Low temperatures will bottom out around minus 15 on Saturday night in valley locations.

The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes, the Weather Service warned. Power outages are also a possibility.

Snowfall totals by Sunday will be in the 8-12 inches range for locations like Whitefish and Columbia Falls, with 6 to 8 inches possible in Kalispell. However, Robinson said snow amount will be difficult to quantify due to the wind.

“Snow amounts aren’t the main concern with this system,” Robinson added. “We’re more concerned with the blowing and drifting snow, and the very cold wind chills.”

In anticipation of the storm, Whitefish Mountain Resort has canceled night skiing this weekend, along with Saturday’s kids programs. The resort also postponed its annual Whitefish Whiteout ski mountaineering race. Resort spokeswoman Riley Polumbus said the event is rescheduled for Feb. 23.

Last weekend the resort closed down its main chair lift to the summit of Big Mountain for two days and called off kids ski lessons due to the extreme winter weather.

The worst of this system will be over by Sunday, Robinson said, but temperatures will struggle to warm above single digits.

He said another shot of heavy snow is possible next week, as well.

“We could be looking at a long duration of snow accumulations through the week,” he warned.

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