NEWS Snow storm warning aimed at ‘preventing multi-vehicle accidents’

Snow storm warning aimed at 'preventing multi-vehicle accidents'

The snow squall alert, which includes the activation of the alert, is used infrequently for the Helena area on Sunday, a weather official said, adding that it is usually used when the weather system is likely to generate a lot of traffic.

The National Weather Service outside Great Falls issued a blizzard warning Sunday afternoon, followed by wireless emergency alerts activated after officials determined a fast-moving weather system was moving into the area, said Chief Meteorologist Jim Brusda. .

The system could produce snowy conditions, temperatures could drop below freezing, icing and low visibility could lead to icy roads within minutes, he said. He said they lasted less than an hour.

Emergency alerts via cellphones notified people of the blizzard warning Sunday.

Brusda said the NWS began issuing storm warnings in 2018 and several times last year. They typically affect highways such as Interstate 15 and Highway 12, he said.

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The warning was issued at 4pm with gusts of up to 49mph. Visibility was about half a mile, the NWS said Tuesday, and was last seen at 4:35 p.m.

“The goal is to prevent multi-vehicle accidents,” Brusda said of the alert, adding that the NWS tries to give about 20 minutes’ notice before an event so people can pull over.

sergeant. Jay M. Nelson of the Montana Highway Patrol said many parts of the state experienced near-snow conditions that brought traffic to a standstill.

“Our Soldiers responded to several vehicle crashes in Montana,” he said in an email. “Fortunately, there weren’t many immediate serious injuries and deaths from this storm.”

He said the MHP, along with several other first responders, responded amazingly to the incident during that time.

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Brusda said he was heartened when he saw photos of people being pulled off the road during the height of the storm. However, he warned the key was for people to get their vehicles completely off the side of the road, almost into the ditch.

“If you can, go to a restaurant and find something to eat for 20 minutes,” he said, adding that they’re not “all-day events, they last 30-40 minutes. If you pull over, stay as far away from the road as possible.”

For the WEA to activate, he said, a significant impact would be needed.

In the case of Sunday, it was used because it was the end of the Thanksgiving travel period, a day with a lot of travel. They are also designed for use during the day or at night, when traffic is severely affected, he said.

Storms don’t usually produce much snow, Brusda said, with 0.3 inches in Helena Valley and 0.1 inches elsewhere. Most of them will generate strong winds that can blow snow to other parts of the state, Brusda said.

He said the NWS has received calls from the public, both positive and negative, asking for the WEA to be activated on Sunday.

“Some people appreciate it, some people aren’t necessarily fans,” Brusda said, adding that it was done for safety.

Assistant Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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