HELENA – Crews worked to restore electrical service in parts of the Billings area Sunday as a major storm left much of Montana white from the season’s first heavy snowfall.
On Sunday afternoon about 2,000 NorthWestern Energy customers in the Billings area were without power, company spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.
“That number is changing almost by the minute because as soon as we get someone back in service we get a call about another outage,” Rapkoch said. Many of the service disruptions occurred after tree branches heavy with snow dropped onto power lines, she said. Most of the customers without power were residential.
The storm rolled into Montana on Thursday and quickly intensified its punch.
Some outages in Billings occurred as early as Thursday. By Saturday night, fewer than 500 customers of NorthWestern lacked power, Rapkoch said.
“Then the snow came overnight” and the interruption of service leaped, she said Sunday. NorthWestern called for extra crews from out of town, including Missoula and Great Falls.
The storm hit southeastern Montana the hardest and bypassed Montana west of the Continental Divide, the National Weather Service said. Snow depth at Billings Logan International Airport on Sunday morning was 9 inches. The Lewistown and Great Falls airports each had 2 inches. Snowfall continued in parts of Montana on Sunday.
The Weather Service expected the wintry weather to subside today and said that at some locations, temperatures likely will rise into the 50s later in the week. Weekend lows in the 20s and even the high teens were reported.
On Sunday, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center issued its first avalanche advisory of the season. The advisories are a source of information for backcountry visitors such as hunters and Nordic skiers.
“If there’s enough snow to ski, there’s enough snow to avalanche,” the advisory said.
“Treat your early season skiing excursions with the same diligence and preparation you’d use midwinter.”