HELENA — A blizzard is defined as a storm with winds of more than 35 miles per hour for at least three hours and enough snow to limit visibility to a quarter-mile or less. Well, how about 24-48 hours of these conditions, twice in about a week?
That's exactly what happened in Eastern Montana and the Dakotas recently.
Once again, Interstates 90 and 94 were shut down over the weekend. Most state routes and highways were shut down as well. Montana Highway 7 between Baker and Ekalaka remained closed as of Monday afternoon as snowdrifts still covered the road.
Twice in less than two week, more than a foot of snow fell in parts of Eastern Montana. This most recent storm had stronger wind but somewhat lesser snow than the previous blizzard. Still, wind gusted over 60 mph with up to 18" of snow for some of the higher terrains in eastern Montana. North Dakota fared worse once again with some areas seeing nearly 60" between the two storms.
According to Montana-Dakota Utilities, some rural areas will not have power restored for days due to "unprecedented" levels of damage to infrastructure and the difficulty of accessing the downed poles and lines.
An estimated 650 poles are on the ground making for an overwhelming challenge. One lineworker repairing power lines said, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
While blizzards are not uncommon in Montana or North Dakota this time of year, two storms of such magnitude in about a week have certainly had a major impact on the area.
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