Fire and ice
November made its arrival known with a strong blast of winter weather lasting several days, bringing snow, cold and a bit of chaos on the road.
Perhaps the most dramatic event was a car fire Monday morning on I-90 that resulted in the total destruction of a Subaru Legacy and all its contents belonging to a pair of Minnesota brothers who were on their way to Big Sky to work for the winter season.
The 21-year-old driver was westbound between Park City and Columbus when he downshifted, heard or felt something strange and pulled over to the shoulder of the road, at which time the engine compartment erupted in flames, said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Kyle Hayter.
The only items the driver and his 19-year-old brother managed to save from the 2004 vehicle were snowboards.
Hayter arrived on scene at 9 a.m. and reported a small propane tank in the back of the vehicle had exploded. At some point, the front tires also exploded. Due to bad road conditions, fire crews were slightly delayed in making it to the scene and the vehicle was fully engulfed when crews arrived, said Hayter.
Deputies, Columbus Fire Rescue and Park City fire crews also responded to the scene.
The road was covered in snow with heavy snow falling at the time of the incident and one westbound lane was blocked as emergency crews worked on the scene, according to the Montana Department of Transportation incident report.
That morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a Winter Weather Advisory until noon for Columbus, Absarokee, Park City, Rapelje and Fishtail, with accumulating snow making for “difficult travel conditions” with poor visibility and slippery roads.
The NWS also issued a Special Weather Statement regarding “persistent light to moderate snow” moving across south-central Montana, affecting locations along I-90 from Reed Point to Hardin. Later Monday, the only advisory still in place was a Hazardous Weather Outlook, as additional snowfall was expected, followed by gusty winds and possible blowing snow in the Nye area.
A QUICK DROP
The snow and cold arrived with the start of the new month, and by the end last of Thursday, Nov. 2, Columbus had received 4.5 inches of snow. During the next two days, six more inches fell, and the highs dropped 20 degrees, according to the NWS.
This past Tuesday, Nov. 7, another 1.8 inches of snow fell and temperatures dropped even further, with a daytime high of 19 degrees and a low of 5 below.
As of Wednesday, Nov. 8, the daily high temperature of 33.6 degrees is running nearly 20 degrees colder than normal. And the daily average temperature of 25.8 degrees is running 13.3 degrees colder than normal, according to the NWS.
The snowfall total for the month is already at 12.5 inches, which is dramatically higher than the normal amount of .5 inches. Snowfall for the year is already at 16 inches, compared to the normal amount of 4.1 inches.
In Rapelje, the snow was even heavier, with a 16.5-inch total since last week, which is also the total for the year-to-date. The normal snowfall amount for this point in November is just 1.3 inches. The daily high temperature of 29.1 degrees is more than 23 degrees below average.
At Mystic Lake, snowfall for the month is at 43 inches, compared to the normal amount of 4.3 inches at this point in November. Snowfall for the year is at an impressive 74 inches, compared to the normal amount of 29.5 inches.
The temperatures are expected to rise, with Thursday’s high hitting about 36 degrees and Friday’s high climbing another 10 degrees. Saturday and Sunday’s highs are forecast in the low 40s. Lows for those four days are 26, 27, 25 and 27 degrees respectively, according to the NWS.