High Winds Whipping Across Montana - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

High Winds Whipping Across Montana

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We're obviously used to some winds here in Montana but gust have really picked up lately with some areas seeing sixty, eighty, even a hundred mile per hour wind gusts.  Two big questions arise: One, where are the winds coming from and two, how can we stay safe when winds get to a dangerous level?

"We're seeing wind gusts, we've had wind gusts reported in an area that's closed, but at Logan's Pass in Glacier National Park, as high as 116 mph this morning, and so we've had some significant wind events, especially from Browning down through Augusta.  There are some sporadic power outages," said Chris Foltz, the Warning Coordinator Meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Gusts have even caused the side of an under-construction tank to cave in at Calumet Montana Refinery, which officials tell me will have to be replaced and repaired.  So when winds pick up, how do you stay safe?

"We've seen some gusts that we haven't seen since the late 1980's in some locations.  It's a little bit of a different event, but we're used to the strong winds so folks know to tie down loose articles, make sure if you're driving to keep two hands on the wheel.  Winds are primarily out of the west and so those North-South roads, especially like Interstate 15, are very prone to high profile vehicles or lightweight vehicles being blown around," said Foltz.

We know Montana is windy, but where do these serious gales come from?

"As we get these storm systems that come out of the Pacific, that come across Washington and the Idaho Panhandle, they start to come across Montana, and of course, you have the Continental Divide, you've got the Rocky Mountains, and those kind of act to help bring the winds that are really strong and aloft in the air down toward the surface.  When we start to get what's called a ridge of high pressure or an area where we get warmer temperatures moving across the West, right now we're on the eastern edge of that.  So we're kind of on the edge between the colder air to the East and warmer air to the West and that's where the strongest winds do typically form," said Foltz.

I know the last question on your mind…when will we get a reprieve from these gusty conditions?

"Thankfully, it looks like things are going to start to settle down as we move on into Tuesday, specially Wednesday and Thursday.  It looks like we're going to get a little bit of a break from the wind.  There may be another little system come through the first part of next week, but thankfully at this point, it doesn't look anywhere near as strong as what we've seen over the last few days," said Foltz.

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