Winds were strong across the state last weekend, including Madison County, as temperatures were 10-15 degrees above average as well. Together, these conditions created work for power companies, road crews and emergency personnel.
Ten power poles were toppled over near Jeffers by wind gusts exceeding 55 miles per hour just before 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11, according to the county director of emergency management Chris Mumme. The downed poles left 2,800 customers in Ennis and the surrounding area without power. Mumme said power was restored to Ennis just before 3 p.m. while Jack Creek above Cedar Creek remained without power as well as Virginia City Ranches and areas in the Gravelly Range. NorthWestern Energy said about 150 customers were without power until 1:20 a.m. Sunday.
According to state officials, wind gusts on Saturday were as strong as 75 miles per hour on Norris Hill, 62 miles per hour in Three Forks, 49 miles per hour in Dillon and 60 miles per hour in Whitehall.
Butch Larcombe with NorthWestern Energy said after Saturday, calls for service slowed in southern Montana, but were more frequent in northern Montana on Monday.
“Ennis had poles blow over, but other places had trees fall into lines,” he said. “We are certainly hoping things quiet down.”
Seven crews from NorthWestern Energy responded to the scene, as well as the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison Valley Rural Fire Department and Madison County Road Crew. The NorthWestern Energy Crews had to bring the necessary poles, parts and equipment from Livingston. The crews completed repairs to a transmission line to Big Sky on Sunday after working deep into the night, according to NorthWestern Energy. The outage affected about 350 customers in the Meadow Village area. The Ennis transmission line is one of two that powers Big Sky. Larcombe said NorthWestern Energy had to turn power off on the other line from Bozeman in order to keep it from becoming overloaded. He said the company is working on new transmission lines to keep this from happening in the future.
NorthWestern Energy encourages people to report downed lines by calling 911 or (888) 467-2669
Mumme said he contacted Montana Disaster and Emergency Services about the power outage, but did not activate Red Cross aid. He advises that if people are without power, but are warm, they should shelter in place unless they need medical attention or need water.
The wind continued through Sunday and into Monday with sustained winds from 30-35 miles per hour and gusts up to 50. The temperatures remained moderate too.
Just hours after power went out around Ennis, a motorist reported a small avalanche and slide at mile marker 5 near Quake Lake, according to the Montana Department of Transportation. No injuries were reported.
The slide closed U.S. Highway 287 from its junction with U.S. 191 to its junction with MT 87 for a little more than two hours—4:10 to 6:30 p.m. It was cleared by crews from the Montana Department of Transportation.
Lori Ryan with the Montana Department of Transportation advises motorists to check road conditions prior to travel. She said her office offers up-to-date road conditions online and via a mobile app.
The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center said Monday that southwest Montana is in the midst of a very impressive avalanche cycle with heavy snow and strong winds pushing weak, faceted layers near the ground past their breaking point on many slopes. The avalanche center reported on its website that a skier triggered a large slide on an east facing slope in Beehive Basin in the northern Madison Range on Friday, Jan. 10 and on Sunday, Jan. 12, a snowmobiler remotely triggered an avalanche from almost 400 feet away on Slatts Hill in the Buck Ridge area of the northern Madison Range. The crown of the slide broke up to six feet deep and occurred on a heavily wind-loaded slope.
Winds are expected to be mild at less than 10 miles per hour starting today, Jan. 16, through early next week. Temperatures are forecasted to remain in the 40-degree range.