Crippling winter storm forecast to ramp up Friday

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A resident shovels snow in Whitefish in this file photo. (Matt Baldwin/Whitefish Pilot)

2017 is set to go out with a blast. A major winter storm on track to hit Northwest Montana today through Saturday could dump up to 20 inches of snow in valley locations and nearly 4 feet in the mountains.

The National Weather Service in Missoula on Wednesday warned that a surge of moderate snow will begin to move into the area Thursday morning. Up to 8 inches of snow is possible in Kalispell by Thursday night. Mountain passes, including Lookout, Lolo, Lost Trail and Marias passes, could see 18 inches of snow.

The storm will peak in intensity Friday night into Saturday.

“What happens late Friday afternoon into Saturday has potential to be one of the more impressive snow events in recent memory,” the Weather Service stated in Wednesday’s forecast discussion.

Models show a “robust plume” of Pacific moisture moving across the area while an extremely cold arctic air mass begins to cross the Continental Divide.

“What occurs next will be both meteorologically beautiful, but also likely quite crippling,” the Weather Service warned.

Friday night into Saturday, additional snow amounts of 8 to 14 inches are possible for valleys across western Montana with another 2 feet possible in the mountains.

Low temperatures Friday and Saturday night will be in the single digits in Kalispell.

Genki Kino, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, said whiteout conditions are likely for the Flathead Friday night due to blowing and drifting snow.

“Come Friday afternoon, the winds area really going to start increasing,” Kino said.

Places like Badrock Canyon will see the worst of the wind, the Weather Service warned. Travel heading into the holiday weekend will be extremely challenging along and north of Interstate 90.

“With all the new snow .. the plows will be working hard,” Kino said.

The snow is expected to taper off Saturday afternoon for Northwest Montana and late Saturday night for West-Central Montana.

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