Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Exercise caution when venturing out in Montana winters

By B.L. Azure

Winter storm related definitions

Watch: A warning likely will be issued about severe winter weather conditions that include freezing rain, sleet or heavy snow. Stay tuned to the radio or television to see what develops.

Warning: Heavy snow - six inches or more within 12 hours or eight inches or more within 24 hours. Warnings may be issued for smaller amounts if forecasters expect significant blowing snow, low wind chills, sleet and freezing rain.

Blizzard warning: Large amounts of blinding, wind-driven snow; sustained winds of at least 35 miles an hour; and dangerous wind chill are expected for at least three hours.

High wind warning: Sustained winds of at least 40 miles per hour or gusts of at least 50 mph that are expected to last at least one hour

Winter weather advisory: Weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not become life threatening.

ST. IGNATIUS — Officially winter is still a couple of weeks away but Mother Nature is given folks on the Flathead Indian Reservation a chilled appetizer this week. Hopefully it will remind people of the need to be a bit more serious when venturing outdoors and to be prepared for anything. It could mean the difference between life and death — the latter is not uncommon in Montana.

In this state of extremes the seasonal temperature swings of 130 degrees are normal. It matters little a person’s location of the state, they will bundle against the numbing lows of 30 degrees below zero in the winter and discard clothing to enjoy or suffer through triple digit highs in summer at least once a season. Luckily this part of the state has been spared from the extremes the last couple of years but that is no reason to cast caution to the wind.

The duration of the extremely cold weather is longer at some state locations like the Hi-Line from Browning to Bainville and in the big open and empty central section of the state east of the Continental Divide and in Butte, America and other high elevation areas on this side of the Divide.

Traveling on Montana roadways in the winter is serious business and should not be taken lightly. The main weapons against the emergency situations that can present themselves in winter are common sense and preparation.

Being prepared is the most important component for surviving emergency situations in Montana especially emergencies that happen while traveling the state’s roadways, be they Interstate, state, county or back country..

The key tool to survival is communication. Let people know the destination and anticipated times of return from a trip.

Nowadays it seems everyone has a cell phone; some have Global Positioning Satellite system capabilities. Many newer vehicles have GPS and communication options.

The importance of cell phones cannot be overstated but they are not infallible. Low signal and battery strength are concerns.

Be prepared for the worst; that could be the difference in the amount of time you spend on the planet.

For current weather information in western Montana, call National Weather Service in Missoula at 721-3939 or check their website at

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