County braces for weekend wallop

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A Polson City plow truck treats roadways as a storm settles in over New Year's weekend. (Ashley Fox/Lake County Leader)

Lake County road crews are cautioning motorists to stay put this weekend, ahead of a winter storm.

The National Weather Service in Missoula issued a winter storm warning Friday afternoon, effective 11 a.m. Saturday and lasting through 5 p.m. Sunday.

Eight to 12 inches of snow is anticipated along with high winds, blowing and drifting snow, and dangerous wind chills.

Dangerous travel conditions Saturday will be magnified by high winds and whiteout conditions, which could flip plow trucks over, Jay Garrick, road and bridge supervisor of Lake County said Friday afternoon.

Garrick said that road crews will not be out treating roadways Saturday.

“As of right now, we will be out (treating roadways) Sunday and Monday during daylight hours,” Garrick said.

Jeff Kitsmiller, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula, recommends that people stay in this weekend.

“There’s heavy snow that could make things bad through the day (on Saturday),” he said, and through Sunday blowing and drifting snow will make commuting difficult.

The county roads department issued a statement Friday afternoon, in which residents are “strongly” advised “to avoid travel Saturday night through Sunday as blizzard conditions” will make travel “impossible” in some areas.

The weather system, both Garrick and Kitsmiller said, is anticipated to be more severe than the storm over New Year’s weekend.

Starting Friday night, Kitsmiller said snow will move into the Mission Valley, which could be heavy at times.

An increase in temperature Saturday will produce a wet, heavy snow, and then arctic air will move in later in the day, freezing surfaces.

“During the afternoon, we’ll be in the 30s,” and by late Saturday evening, the mercury will drop into the 20s. By Sunday morning, the temperature will be in the teens.

Just like Lake County road crews, Kitsmiller said the NWS has kept an eye on the wind predictions.

“By late evening into the overnight (Saturday), the wind will pick up, blowing existing snow around” while new snow accumulates, making roadways icy, he said.

Kitsmiller added that with the blizzard-like conditions associated with this storm, people need to be prepared should they have to travel.

“Thirty minutes outside with unexposed skin” could result in frostbite, he warned.

For more weather information, visit www.weather.gov

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