Cold, snow descend on SE Montana

This winter is putting a strain on the City of Miles City’s street budget since the area hasn’t been getting heavy snow in recent years.

“It’s quite a winter,” Mayor John Hollowell said.

He does not remember seeing this much snow since he was a kid. 

“In the last few years we’ve seen three to four inches at a time,” he said, adding that the last storm had 10 inches and the snow is still falling on the current snow storm.

The budgets for fuel and wages are where the budgets are starting to strain. 

Wright Dobbs of the National Weather Service in Billings said Monday that Miles City was expected to get 4-6 inches from the storm that began Sunday and continued into today. It was going to start clearing up this afternoon and be done snowing by midnight.

A winter weather advisory was issued until midday Tuesday for the snow followed by bitter cold, Dobbs said.

Tuesday the high is expected to be a mere -1 degrees. A small warm up is expected by Saturday when it gets up into the teens and possibly the 20s, according to NWS. 

Early Monday a local storm spotter reported to NWS that three inches of snow, amounting to .11 inch precipitation.

Dobbs said that the unattended weather stations do not measure inches and are not accurate in measuring precipitation in the winter, so they didn’t have any reliable snow data from the stations.

From storm spotters information, December broke or was tied daily precipitation records, though Dobbs said the NWS would not have the exact figures until after the winter was over.

As far as temperatures go, NWS data states that December 2016 was tied for the 13th coldest winter in the past 79 years with an average of 13.9 degrees versus the normal 20.3 degrees.

In that same period, it was the 14th coldest in regards to the highs, with the normal highs to average 30.9 and last month the average high was 23.4. December was the 15th coldest with regards to the average low temperatures with last month’s average being 4.3 degrees while normal is a 9.7 degree average.

On Monday city equipment was expected to head out in the afternoon to begin applying the salt/sand mixture on the streets. When the snow has finished falling, around 10 p.m. or midnight, the city crew would begin clearing the snow, Hollowell said.

The city’s snow removal policy states crews will begin clearing main streets, followed by the areas around the hospital and fire department, then schools and the other streets.

Hollowell said the city has two sand spreaders. To remove the snow they use one scraper, two loaders, and three dump trucks. 

The city is running out of places to leave the snow. They have already stacked it along the BNSF railroad tracks, behind Steadman’s Ace Hardware on the Kosty property, and at the north end of Montana Avenue. 

Now they are piling it at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds, as is the Montana Department of Transportation, since they also are running out of room.

The MDT could not be reached for comment Monday morning.

A couple of slide-offs on Interstate 94 near Miles City were reported by the Montana Highway Patrol’s website between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

According to the weather advisory, there will be reduced visibility due to the blowing and drifting snow.

Wind chills were expected to be 15 to 25 below zero.