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40 inches of snow in Montana: ‘It’s a February storm in September’

Sunflowers bowed and broke under the heavy wet snow in Great Falls, Mont., on Saturday. (
Sunflowers bowed and broke under the heavy wet snow in Great Falls, Mont., on Saturday. (The Great Falls Tribune via AP

HELENA, Mont. — A powerful winter storm socked much of Montana with a wave of heavy snowfall on Sunday, with weekend totals climbing to 40 inches in some places, and breaking century-old daily records.

Never mind that it has only just turned to fall. Governor Steve Bullock declared a winter emergency as cars skidded off highways, communities lost power, and farmers despaired at the damage to crops that were still in the ground.

“It’s a February storm in September,” said Jeff Mow, the superintendent of Glacier National Park in the state’s mountainous northwest. “We’re used to this kind of storm, just not this time of year.”

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The snowfall totals were staggering for any time of year: 40 inches in Browning since Friday, and 38 inches in St. Mary. Records were tumbling across the state. On Saturday, the National Weather Service recorded snow at the Missoula International Airport. There had not been a trace of snow recorded on any Sept. 28 since 1893.

Great Falls was blanketed by 9.7 inches of snow on Saturday, topping a daily snowfall record of 6.1 inches that had been set in 1954.

“We have very wet and heavy snow, which has compacted down, making it look less than 14 inches,” said Thomas Pepe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls. “But we’re just getting into round two of snowfall — it’s starting to intensify again. It’s pretty bleak out there.”

NEW YORK TIMES