Winter storm causes road, school closures
| January 7, 2022 10:15 AM
Heavy snow battered Northwest Montana on Thursday night into Friday, causing precarious driving conditions, and some road and school closures.
The Montana Department of Transportation warned of severe driving conditions Friday morning on U.S. 2 between Libby and Marion, as well as on highways 200 and 56 between Troy and Thompson Falls, and Highway 37 along Lake Koocanusa.
Meanwhile, whiteout conditions were reported over Marias Pass on U.S. 2 south of Glacier National Park all the way to Browning. The highway was closed between East Glacier and Browning Friday morning.
Classes were canceled for the Libby and Thompson Falls school districts due to poor road conditions. In Lake County, the St. Ignatius School District also cancelled Friday's classes.
In the Flathead Valley, only West Valley was on a delayed start while all other schools operated on a regular schedule.
Snowfall amounts reported early Friday morning ranged from about a foot in Thompson Falls to more than 8 inches in Libby and Marion, with about 6 inches reported in Kalispell, Bigfork and Whitefish.
St. Regis along I-90 west of Missoula reported 2 feet of snow. Near Lookout Pass and avalanche hit the interstate, causing a full blockage of a driving lane.
Precipitation south of the Flathead Valley had transitioned to freezing rain overnight, creating slick surfaces in Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley.
An avalanche warning was issued for Northwest Montana through Saturday. Heavy snow and powerful winds created unstable slabs, and very large avalanches were likely, the Flathead Avalanche Center warned.
Whitefish Mountain Resort had a delayed opening to some terrain Friday while avalanche mitigation work took place. The resort reported about 7 inches of new snow.
Backcountry conditions weren’t expected to improve Friday, with blizzard-like conditions possible across all mountain ranges. According to the Weather Service’s backcountry forecast, an additional 17 inches of snow was possible Friday on the highest peaks in the Kootenai Forest region, with another 10 inches possible in the Whitefish Range and Glacier Park.