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The heavy snow on Sunday night and Monday morning knocked out power for at least 5,727 area households. Power at most of those residences was brought back online by the end of the workday on Monday, though a handful are still awaiting repairs.

In Bozeman, 4,481 NorthWestern Energy customers were without power at some point on Monday morning, said spokesperson Jo Dee Black. In Livingston, at least 110 households had lost power, and in Ennis, at least 1,136 customers lost power, according to NorthWestern Energy’s online outage map.

Black said that the main reason for the outages is that the heavy snow pulled tree limbs with leaves down on top of power lines or broke tree limbs that then downed the lines. In the Ennis area, high winds were also a factor.

“Crews are out working to clear trees and pull wires back to do repairs to restore power,” she said.

Crews working on downed lines

A NorthWestern Energy crew works on repairing a line downed by heavy, wet snow on Monday, Oct. 11. 

Montana State University had a campus-wide power outage due to the snow and canceled all morning classes on Monday. Power has been restored and classes resumed at noon, according to MSU’s social media. The Bozeman Swim Center also closed because of the power outage but reopened for its regular programming at noon after having the power restored. The outages also temporarily affected streetlights in some parts of Bozeman, including lights on Main Street west of Seventh Avenue and at the intersection of Durston Road and 19th Avenue.

On Monday, all of NorthWestern Energy’s repair crews were dispatched and working on rectifying storm damage. Three crews were working in Bozeman, one crew was in Ennis and one was in Livingston, Black said. The utility company has also contracted a tree service and is working with a tree maintenance crew to remove broken tree limbs from lines.

“It’s really important for people to be aware with this type of weather that when we do have lines that are down, to stay away from those lines,” Black said.

NorthWestern says to treat all downed power lines like they’re active and report them to the company — but don’t get too close. Downed power lines are potentially charged with electrical current strong enough to injure or kill a person.

Giving the crews space to work is also important, Black said.

NorthWestern energy prioritizes work on lines that impact a large number of people. That generally means that outages in town are fixed faster than outages for rural households or communities.

Bozeman Police Department Patrol Sgt. Justin Chaffins said the department responded to between five and 10 vehicle crashes Monday morning because of the snow. Those were mainly vehicle vs. vehicle crashes, he said, though he did hear over the scanner a report of the wet snow breaking off a tree branch that fell and hit a moving car.

Wild

Downed tree branches cover a sidewalk along West College Street on Oct. 11, 2021.

When drivers come upon a traffic light that’s not working, Chaffins said to treat it as a four-way stop and take turns crossing the intersection.

In general for driving in the snow, he said drivers just need to slow down, give extra space between vehicles and watch for fallen tree branches and downed power lines.

“Drive defensively, be very cautious,” he said. “In the heavy, wet snow, just realize it’s going to bust trees and branches. We had a lot of power lines going down … just give that kind of thing a wide berth.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Nutter, based in Great Falls, said the Bozeman Airport station measured about 4 inches of snow at 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning. The snow continued to accumulate throughout the day and is likely to continue through Tuesday afternoon.

“It definitely was a significant snowfall (Monday) morning, which was wet and heavy which was the notable part of it that led to those power outages,” Nutter said. “(The snow has) a lot of water, it’s pretty wet, so be careful and watch for ice as that water freezes up overnight.”

The snow is coming from a large and slow-moving storm, Nutter said, that will likely stay in the area and continue to snow intermittently until Tuesday afternoon.

After that, temperatures are predicted to remain cool but precipitation isn’t expected.

“The snow that we’ve had (Monday) gives us a nice preview for winter, but we are going to get back to better weather as we go through the week ahead,” Nutter said. Nights and morning temperatures are expected to be in the high teens and 20s, and daytime highs are predicted in the 40s. The weekend forecast has no snow and high temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

“It’s a good reminder here to get things winterized … be prepared for winter driving conditions, put the snow brush back in the car,” Nutter said. “This little storm here is going to give us a good reminder of that.”

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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