Weather

In this file photo, tree limbs lining South Willson Avenue bow under the weight of the heavy new snow on Nov. 3 in Bozeman.

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Up to 9 inches of snow is expected to drop in the lower elevations of Gallatin and Madison counties through Saturday.

That’s according to the National Weather Service, which issued a winter storm warning from Friday through 6 p.m. Saturday. Up to 16 inches of snow is expected in higher elevations.

The advisory warned travelers to be prepared for difficult road conditions. If you must travel, the advisory said, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

During Friday morning’s work commute, traffic backed up and roads were icy and snow covered. Temperatures remained low Friday afternoon, and roads cleared up a bit in the city.

Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Pat McLaughlin said Friday he was dealing a lot with whiteout conditions, especially in the Three Forks area. The calls he responded to were mostly slide-offs, with four crashes resulting in damages, he said.

McLaughlin said ice that formed during the morning melted throughout the day, but was starting to freeze again in the evening.

He advised, “If they don’t need to be out on the road, they shouldn’t be out on the road.”

The weather service predicted snow could fall at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center said as of Friday morning the mountains had 4 feet of snow. By Saturday morning, the GNFAC said the mountains would get up to 8 more inches of new snow, continuing through Monday.

GNFAC Director Doug Chabot said the snow excites people. From his perspective, though, the new snow combined with ridge winds makes it easier to trigger avalanches.

“People are going to need to be careful if they go outside and head up into the mountains,” Chabot said.

Recreationalists need to treat this early season snow like its mid-winter snow, he said, and follow the same rules. Chabot recommended traveling with avalanche rescue gear and being aware in higher elevations.

“If you see evidence of an avalanche from the night or day before, that’s a huge sign from Mother Nature that the slopes are unstable and avalanches could happen,” he said.

On Bridger Bowl’s website, the projected opening day is listed as Dec. 8. Big Sky Resort had Nov. 23 listed as its opening day.

Saturday’s forecast is expected to have a high of 31, 19 degrees lower than the historical average, and a low of 15. On Sunday, temperatures will reach 32, 17 degrees lower than the historical average, and a low of 14.

For updates on weather advisories, visit GNFAC’s website at mtavalanche.com. For the latest road conditions, call 511.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

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