Severe thunderstorm potential for a large portion of central Montana this week

A broad portion of Montana could see scattered severe thunderstorms Thursday capable of producing golf ball-sized hail and winds between 60 and 80 miles per hour.

Scattered severe thunderstorms capable of producing golf ball-sized hail, torrential rainfall and winds between 60 and 80 miles per hour could be seen over a wide area of central Montana Thursday. Those thunderstorms are also expected to bring "low" potential for tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.

As of Wednesday morning, Billings was sitting in a stripe of land with potential for isolated severe thunderstorms Thursday. Another, larger area with scattered severe thunderstorm potential extends from Red Lodge and Roundup west to Butte and Helena, according to an NWS Billings graphic.

A hazardous weather outlook issued early Wednesday morning for affected areas describes threatened areas as being west of a line from Roundup to Billings to Red Lodge. Generally, the hazardous weather outlook applies to portions of central Montana, south-central Montana, southeast Montana and north-central Wyoming.

Weather conditions could also produce several inches of snow Friday in mountainous areas above 7,000 feet. That snow could impact the Beartooth Highway.

Thursday's thunderstorms storms are likely to begin in the early afternoon and extend into mid-evening.

"On Friday, there's a a chance the threat is going to shift to southeast Montana, east of Billings," said Bob Setzenfand, an NWS Billings meteorologist. 

Setzenfand said forecasters believe a trough of low pressure is expected to move in aloft over the affected area, bringing cooler air aloft.

"If you have warm air at the surface and cooler air aloft, that's an unstable situation," Setzenfand said. "And then it's also going to bring stronger winds aloft and that helps organize the thunderstorms." 

More ideal conditions for the severe thunderstorms will likely be seen west of Billings on Thursday, Setzenfand said. 

"We just recommend that people have a way to get our warnings in case a warning is issued," Setzenfand said. 

The hazardous weather outlook lists includes the following areas:

  • Southern Wheatland County.
  • Musselshell County.
  • Treasure County.
  • Northern Rosebud County.
  • Custer County.
  • Fallon County.
  • Northern Stillwater County.
  • Yellowstone County.
  • Powder River County.
  • Carter County.
  • Southern Big Horn County.
  • Eastern Carbon County.
  • Northern Park County.
  • Northern Sweet Grass County.
  • Golden Valley County.
  • The Red Lodge foothills.
  • Southern Rosebud County.
  • Judith Gap.
  • Paradise Valley.
  • The Livingston area.
  • The Beartooth foothill.
  • The Absaroka Mountains.
  • The Beartooth Mountains.
  • The Crazy Mountains.
  • The northeast Bighorn Mountains.
  • The Sheridan foothills.

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