Bullock declares emergency in multiple counties due to early winter storm

Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring an emergency in Montana due to the early season storm.

Areas hit hardest include Cascade, Flathead, Glacier, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Pondera and Teton counties and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Glacier County, and Pondera County have issued local emergency declarations.

“With an unprecedented winter storm throwing our state a surprise in September, state and local governments are working closely together to protect the health and safety of Montanans and our top priority is making sure that happens,” Bullock said in a release. “Montanans should heed all warnings from state and local officials, travel safely, and be cautious during this time.”

Early winter storm expected to cause damage to power lines with heavy wet snow, high winds

The National Weather Service office in Great Falls reported Sunday afternoon that between 6 a.m. and noon Sunday, they measured another 4.8 inches of snow with the 9 inches already on the ground. The total snowfall so far, according to NWS in Great Falls is 18.8 inches as of about 1 p.m. Sept. 29.

The snow depth will be less than total snowfall due to surface melting and compacting, according to NWS.

This early season storm is already well underway, but as winter approaches, find tips on preparing for winter storms, and other emergencies, at Ready.gov.

According to Bullock’s office, the storm brought heavy, wet snow with accumulation amounts up to three feet in some locations across the state.

Emergency Preparedness Forum is Sept. 24

High winds have downed trees and power lines resulting in road closures, emergency travel conditions, intermittent cellular service and power outages.

Downed and broken trees limbs are visible in variou locations around Great Falls, including several in the downtown area.

“Unseasonably cold temperatures will delay snowmelt in some areas and bring the end of the growing season for some agricultural producers. The storm also has the potential to cause flooding in Montana,” according to Bullock’s release.

“We were fortunate to receive several days of notice from the National Weather Service – which did a good job predicting the size and magnitude of this storm,” Bullock said in a release.

With the advance notice, state agencies were able to preposition equipment and prioritize road clearing with local jurisdictions and the Blackfeet Nation has a shelter on standby for stranded motorists in or around Glacier National Park, according to Bullock’s release.

Montana Red Cross opened a shelter at the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish, 237 1st Ave. N.W. in Browning, as large amounts of snow continue to fall in the area. Those who need services should call the Montana Red Cross at 800-272-6668.

The Montana State Emergency Coordination Center is working with all counties in the storm path to identify needs to critical services such as energy, communications, transportation, and emergency food, water and shelter services. The coordination center continues to receive declarations of emergencies from local and tribal jurisdictions, according to a release.

Bullock’s emergency order allows the utilization of all necessary state government services, equipment and suppliers to further the efforts of local governments in protecting the health and safety of Montanans. With the order, state resources can be mobilized to impacted counties with eligible expenses for emergency protective measures and debris removal, according to the release.