Freezing Rain Causes Hazardous Driving Conditions

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS — Freezing rain fell across northern Montana east of the Continental Divide on Thursday morning, as a mix of winter weather and warming temperatures across the state led to avalanches, flooding, treacherous driving conditions and school delays.

School buses did not run in Great Falls or Havre on Thursday morning. Havre schools delayed the start of classes by two hours.

Great Falls planned to start its school day on time, but a post on its website said “parents should feel free to make their own decisions as to whether to send children to schools.”

Montana State-Northern wasn’t holding its first classes until 11 a.m. Hays-Lodge Pole schools delayed their buses until 9 a.m. and Rocky Boy schools were closed.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory calling for freezing rain until 11 a.m. Thursday.

“City roads, power lines, sidewalks, everything is coated in ice,” NWS meteorologist Jim Brusda told the Great Falls Tribune.

The Montana Department of Transportation travel map shows roads from Cascade north to the Canadian border and from Great Falls east to the North Dakota border were icy Thursday morning. The Vaughn Frontage Road east of Great Falls was closed due to a fatal crash, the Cascade County sheriff’s office and the Montana Highway Patrol said.

In northwestern Montana, a series of avalanches Wednesday night and Thursday morning blocked the BNSF Railway tracks between Ennis and Marias Pass.

BNSF spokesman Matt Jones said Thursday it has ended all rail traffic in the area south of Glacier National Park due to the threat of continued slides. The railroad is asking park officials for permission to use a compressed-air cannon to trigger slides and reduce future threats, Jones said.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the railroad continues to bus Empire Builder passengers between stations in Shelby and Whitefish.

Meanwhile, warmer overnight temperatures in the southwestern part of the state led to rapid snowmelt and water running over the roads near Boulder, Whitehall, Toston and Livingston.

The city of Livingston declared a state of emergency after melting snow flooded creeks and ditches and sent water running down city streets. The flooding started at about 8 p.m. Wednesday and about 70 people were evacuated. Residents of the south side of Livingston were encouraged to sandbag in front of their homes and the Livingston City Center was open to those who were evacuated due to the flooding.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for several areas in southern Montana.

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