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Winter storm

Three men dig out a stranded motorist on Montana Avenue and N. 21st Street on Saturday. Heavy snow and subzero weather conditions continue to make travel difficult. The winter storm warning for much of the state remains in effect until midnight.

After record-breaking snowfall on Friday, atmospheric conditions are setting up for the new year to begin at below zero. 

A total of 8.9 inches of snow fell on Billings throughout Friday, doubling a previous record of 4.1 inches set for the day in 2010, according to Tom Frieders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings. 

Some of the heaviest snowfall came during the Friday morning commute, when snow fell at a rate of an inch per hour. A break came at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning before a final burst of snow dumped an estimated 2 to 3 more inches on the city, Frieders said. 

Snow depth at the airport at 5 a.m. Saturday was measured at 15 inches. NWS Billings received reports of the storm dropping between a foot and 20 inches of snow around Big Timber and Livingston.

"From here to Livingston seems to be setting up as the heaviest corridor of snowfall for this event," Frieders said. 

The snow is behind Billings for the time being with the exception of some scattered flurries. "The big story will be the bitter cold temperatures now for the next couple days," Frieders said.

Saturday night lows were expected to reach minus 15.

On Sunday, Billings will "struggle to even hit zero," on the thermometer, according to Frieders. "Most areas are going to remain below zero during the day. That will be setting up for a very cold New Year's Eve."

Forecasts as of Saturday morning showed temperatures could be at minus 15 as people begin to pop champagne and ring in the new year. The temperature could drop down to minus 20 as the night progresses, Frieders said. Parts of Eastern Montana could see lows of minus 30.

"People should anticipate windchills somewhere around 25 to 30 below depending on where you're at," Frieders said. "You may have to dress a little differently just to protect yourself from the bitter cold temperatures."

Temperatures could near 32 on Wednesday but departing cold air brings the potential for blowing snow and reduced visibility Monday night into Tuesday.

"Sometimes people leave their guard down becuase the snowfall is done, but we've got a lot of snow out there ready to blow if we get some strong winds," Frieders said.

Plowing

Private plowing services contracted by the city had cleared Zone 4 by 8 p.m. Friday night, according to Bill Kemp, manager of the city's Street-Traffic Division. 

Zone 4 is made up of Briarwood and the South Side. Plowing of Zone 3, which consists of southwestern portions of the West End, could be finished by 8 o'clock Saturday night, Kemp said. That's a rough estimate, Kemp said.

Plowing of Zone 4 took about 12 hours, but Kemp said Zone 3 has more streets and therefore would take more time to plow. 

Kemp reminds residents to move their cars off the street during plowing. He acknowledged it's a difficult task due to rough timelines for plowing but said cars on the street during plowing will have snow pushed against them. 

After scheduled residential plowing concludes, the Street-Traffic Division will evaluate if further plowing is needed. 

Plowing on main streets was being redone Saturday due to continued snowfall. Kemp said drivers can expect central berms 3 feet wide and 2 feet high on streets including Grand Avenue, Central Avenue, Broadwater Avenue, Rimrock Road, 24th Street West, Park Hill Drive, Colton Boulevard, Poly Drive, Governors Boulevard, Hilltop Road, Aronson Avenue, Wicks Lane, Nutter Boulevard, Babcock Boulevard, Bench Boulevard, St. Andrews Drive, State Avenue and Orchard Lane.

"I don't suggest you try to cross it," Kemp said of the berms. 

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Night Reporter

General assignment reporter for The Billings Gazette.