It was a snowy start to the work week, and it looks like this week will end the same way.
Helena had received a total of 4.5 inches of new snow by early Monday morning, which mixed with freezing rain to make for extremely slick roads. Emergency crews had a busy Sunday and Monday, with Montana Highway Patrol responding to more than 40 crashes and slide-offs.
Much of Montana was under a winter storm warning Monday, including Billings, Great Falls, Havre, Kalispell and Helena.
The 4.5 inches recorded in Helena did not include additional accumulations through Monday afternoon. Higher elevations saw greater snowfall. The Snotel site on Nevada Ridge northwest of Helena recorded about a foot of new snow Sunday and Monday.
There were some school delays in the greater Helena area, with Helena Public Schools reporting some school bus delays and alternative pickup sites Monday morning. Jefferson High School delayed its start with buses running two hours behind, and Montana City changed some bus routes to deal with icy roads.
While temperatures in Helena fell to single digits Sunday morning, north-central and northeastern Montana took the brunt of the Arctic air hitting the state. Temperatures fell to 35 below zero in Malta Sunday morning and minus 23 in Plentywood Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service, with Mud Lake North of Havre recording the lowest wind chill for the weekend at minus 51.
Avalanche warnings were posted for the backcountry in west-central Montana, as well as the Gallatin National Forest near Cooke City.
Major highways remained open, but many roads, including long stretches of Interstates 15, 90 and 94 were slick with snow and ice.
The heavy snow was expected to end Monday night, with a chance of snow continuing into Tuesday.
Another major snowstorm is forecast to hit Montana starting Thursday, although meteorologists say it is too early to predict additional snowfall.
“It’s a little too soon for snow amounts -- there are some disagreements in the models -- but what I can say with somewhat good confidence is that this will be a widespread snow event again and we can expect a few inches,” said Christian Cassell, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls.
The next storm could continue to cause hazardous driving conditions with reduced visibility and a potential for blowing snow.
Temperatures are expected to moderate by Wednesday and Thursday with highs near 40, before highs fall back closer to freezing as the next storm comes in. The weekend is looking brighter, with forecasts calling for a partly cloudy Saturday and mostly sunny Sunday.