UPDATE: The National Weather Service has issued new wind highlights and critical fire weather highlights for Saturday.
The National Weather Service has issued a HIGH WIND WATCH for Saturday over SW Montana east of the divide Saturday morning through Saturday evening. Right now we are in the watch phase as we get closer to Saturday this watch will most likely get upgraded to a high wind warning. Forecast models show there is potential for peak wind gusts to reach or exceed 60 mph especially in high wind prone areas Saturday afternoon and could produce property damage. At the moment there are no wind highlights up west of the divide, however, Butte to Missoula will also see powerful wind gusts Saturday and the Missoula NWS forecast will likely have some wind advisories or warnings issued for Saturday with their updates Friday.
Next, the combination of above normal temperatures Saturday ahead of a cold front, stronger surface wind gusts, and lower humidity has set the stage for critical fire weather conditions and a RED FLAG WARNING has been issued for all of SW Montana from Saturday morning through Saturday evening. This means new fire starts are very likely and small fires can grow rapidly and out-of-control. Please use extreme caution with all outdoor activities Saturday.
BOZEMAN – Numerous topics to update you on regarding weather and drought conditions.
First, the Montana Drought Monitor is updated every Thursday and the latest news on the drought is it’s holding steady. Drought conditions have not improved over the last week nor have they improved over Montana. We will not see improvements in the drought until this winter season if we see a good snowpack year.
Back to the short term forecast. There are 3 main topics to discuss. First, warmer than normal temperatures, increasing smoke, and increasing wind gusts Friday into Saturday. Another Pacific storm front will push into the Pacific NW beginning Friday and reach NW Montana late Saturday night. A strong surface cold front will once again produce very strong surface wind gusts especially on Saturday.
Ahed of the front a SW flow will develop and that will aid local wildfire smoke to increase from Butte to Bozeman northward Friday into Saturday. Strong surface wind gusts will likely trigger another round of critical fire weather statements from the National Weather Service for Saturday. Peak gusts 30 to 60 mph Saturday will cause local fires to explode and injecting considerable smoke into the atmosphere.
There could be some high wind highlights issued for Saturday over SW Montana as well which means damaging gusts are possible with peak gusts around 50 to 60 mph in high wind prone areas.
Behind the front cooler air begins to drop down into Montana Sunday and well below normal temperatures are likely by Monday and Tuesday.
An upper-level Low will drop into the region Sunday through Tuesday and could produce scattered valley rain and even higher mountain snow Monday into Tuesday. It’s way too early to predict snow totals but for now there could be several inches above 7,000’ early next week.