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STORMTracker Weather Blog

Jan 8, 2014 1:05 PM by Meteorologist Mike Rawlins

100 mph winds possible in Montana this weekend

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about the potential for 90 mph winds under the Big Sky. Now, wind gusts could go even higher.

Thanks for stopping by the STORMTracker Weather Blog! While most of the nation endures an arctic blast, Montana is one of a few states enjoying warmer temperatures. I decided to throw together a comparison of the coldest temperatures across the U.S. to what we saw in Montana early Tuesday:

Comparing the Cold

As we eye warmer weather in the coming days, we also have to discuss the possibility of yet another high wind event. Montana is no stranger to powerful winds during the winter months and it all has to do with the upper air pattern.

Since Montana contains a line of very tall mountains (the Rockies) stretching from north to south, this can change up the conditions at the surface on the eastern side (leeward). Strong upper level winds run into the mountains and are forced to move upward by the terrain. However, once the mountains fall away on the leeward side, the wind will actually race down the eastern slopes. We call this a downsloping wind and it's actually responsible for the milder, drier climate many cities along Interstate 15 enjoy.

I don't want to bore you with the nerdy scientific details regarding this weekend's possible high wind event, so I'll just right to the point. Incredibly strong winds (near 100 mph) are expected to pass right over the Rocky Mountains on Saturday. Many of our computer forecast models are pulling some of that wind energy down the eastern slopes of the Rockies and down into the plains. Here's the GFS (Global Forecast System) model output for surface wind speeds late Saturday evening:

GFS Wind Forecast

Sustained winds of 30-50 mph will be possible and gusts to 70 mph may occur over the plains. In the mountains, wind gusts up to 100 mph are not out of the question and this is a big concern. Anyone driving high-profile vehicles will want to avoid these winds as small vehicles could be tossed around. Also, structural damage can occur when wind speeds climb this high.

This high wind event is still not a done deal, but all signs point toward some dangerously high winds developing over the weekend. I urge anyone living along and east of the Rocky Mountains in Montana to stay weather aware and check back for future forecast updates in the coming days.

Have a great evening,
Mike

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