MISSOULA (AP) – Heavy, wet snow left thousands of homes and business in western Montana without power Monday evening.
The outages were affecting 1,000 to 1,500 NorthWestern Energy customers in the Hamilton area and another 4,000 in the Missoula area, including Alberton, Lolo, Bonner and Clinton, company spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.
“We are expecting that some of those customers may be without power overnight,” she said, adding that overnight outages were more likely in outlying areas.
The outages were caused by heavy snow and downed tree limbs on power lines, and most were reported Monday morning and afternoon, she said.
Rapkoch said crews were making good progress, but snow, mud and fallen trees and branches were making it difficult for workers to get heavy equipment to some of the affected areas. She added that contract crews from Butte, Helena and Great Falls had been called in to help.
The National Weather Service issued a heavy snow warning for western Montana, with severe winter weather expected until roughly 5 p.m. Monday. Authorities also warned that snow could make roads treacherous.
In Missoula, the heavy snowfall shut down the public library and caused extensive tree damage throughout town. City crews began removing large fallen limbs and other hazards early Monday, the Missoulian reported on its Web site.
The Weather Service reported snowfall accumulations of 6 to 9 inches in Missoula County, including 6 to 10 inches in the Bitterroot Valley and 12 inches at the top of Evaro Hill.
Areas at higher elevations were seeing 11 to 13 inches of snowfall. Twin Lakes, which sit at 6,400 feet west of Hamilton, received 11.5 inches, while Skalkaho Summit and Stuart Mountain each received 13 inches for a 24-inch base.
“It’s been a pretty uniform event,” meteorologist Bruce Bauck said. “We’ve got a pretty consistent 10 to 13 inches in the higher elevations, and about 6 to 10 inches on the valley floors.”
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