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Crashes on icy roads snarl traffic after storm drops up to 5 inches of snow around Billings

Crashes on icy roads snarl traffic after storm drops up to 5 inches of snow around Billings

Up to 5 inches of snow fell in Billings Sunday evening and into Monday, part of a cold front expected to keep regional temperatures frigid for 48 hours.

As of 6 a.m. Monday, the National Weather Service reported 4.8 inches of snow at its West End office. Throughout the day, the snow snarled traffic in the region. 

A pair of wrecks blocked traffic before being opened back up. 

A semi rollover on I-90 between Columbus and Park City blocked eastbound lanes, according to a 4:40 p.m. update from the Montana Department of Transportation, before a path around the wreck was opened on the road's shoulder. Several vehicles may have crashed into the semi from behind. 

A wreck on the Frontage Road between the Zoo Drive and King Avenue interchanges closed the road around 4 p.m. Monday before reopening. 

An earlier semi wreck at the Laurel I-90 interchange blocked much of the eastbound lane. Traffic was moving more normally through the area by 4:30 p.m.

Powerful winds blew through Billings as snow fell Sunday night, with a maximum wind gust of 39 mph recorded at the agency's weather station at the airport, Nickolai Reimer, a meteorologist with the local NWS office, said Monday morning.

"With the wind we had yesterday, there's certainly going to be spots where it's drifted more than 4 inches," she said.

In Laurel and Park City, snowfall depths of 2.5 inches were reported as of midnight, while Livingston had about 5 inches.

In Red Lodge, up to a foot of snow had fallen in town, Reimer said. Red Lodge Mountain reported up to 13 inches of overnight snow at the ski area, with up to 15 inches in the past 24 hours.

The high temperature for New Year's Eve is expected to reach just 9 degrees before dropping below zero overnight. A frigid start to the new year is expected, with wind chill values of minus 18 in Billings when the clock strikes midnight, according to the weather service.

Farther north, the weather service issued a wind chill advisory for northeast Montana, north of the Missouri River. Wind chills of minus 25 are likely in the area until noon.

Temperatures will begin climbing on New Year's Day, when the weather service predicts a high of 20 degrees in Billings. Wednesday and Thursday will likely see highs in the mid 30s and low 40s, respectively.

Several highways that were closed Sunday night and into Monday morning reopened Monday. 

Montana transportation officials said Monday that state Highway 59 was temporarily closed from the Wyoming state line to Broadus due to icy conditions and blowing and drifting snow. It is now open.

Officials also waned drivers of severe conditions along U.S. Highway 212 in the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings and advisories in Wyoming and southeastern Montana.

In Wyoming, hazardous conditions including black ice prompted warnings of no unnecessary travel on many state highways and interstates.

Several interstates that were closed reopened by Monday afternoon.

Interstate 25 from Casper to Buffalo was closed due to the storm. Both Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Gillette and Highway 2026 between Casper and Shoshone were still shut down late Monday morning, while all roads in and out of Sheridan also remained closed, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

All had reopened by Monday afternoon.

“It’s not a big deal as far as being a winter storm. We’ve had bigger,” said Jeff Goetz, spokesman for WYDOT. “It impacted the roads because it came down pretty fast.”

The snow was also light and powdery, easily picked up and tossed across the highway cutting visibility, he said.

The Associated Press and Casper-Star Tribune contributed to this report.


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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.

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