A storm capable of producing more than 8 inches of snow could hit the Billings area Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.
Sunday afternoon the National Weather Service in Billings issued a winter storm watch for late Tuesday night into Thursday morning, a period during which 5 to 10 inches of snow is possible, along with wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour.
The winter storm watch covers portions of north-central Wyoming and central and south-central Montana, including Billings.
The storm might be preceded by a drop in temperatures from the upper 60s Tuesday into the upper 20s Wednesday, a change of about 40 degrees.
Warm road temperatures might melt early snow, which could refreeze as temperatures continue to drop and more snow accumulates, creating potential for both ice and slush on the roads.
Rapidly falling snow could lower visibility and winds might range between 20 and 30 miles per hour. Snow might begin between midnight and 2 a.m. Wednesday, making for a difficult morning commute in Billings, but especially to the west and south of the city.
"Travel in particular westbound towards Bozeman or southbound towards Sheridan Wednesday could be extremely challenging," said Dan Borsum, a meteorologist with the weather service.
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Snow could continue to fall into the evening Wednesday.
"So right now we are advising people to allow a lot of extra time and reconsider travel plans because the timing of this is really gonna, I think catch people off guard, especially since the weather's been so nice," Borsum said.
In a forecast graphic published at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, the weather service showed Billings in the midst of an area labeled at high risk of more than 4 inches of snow, and in an area at moderate risk for more than 8 inches of snow.
By about 1:30 p.m. Sunday that forecast was still holding, Borsum said.
Borsum described the storm as a "blast," meaning it's not expected to linger over the area.
"It's not a typical arctic air mass coming down from Alaska or the North Pole," Borsum said. "It has more to do with the power of the system and the upper level atmosphere driving the change to very sudden cold conditions."
A broad area might be affected by the storm. The winter storm watch covers Mussleshell County, Yellowstone County, southern Big Horn County, northern Big Horn County, eastern Carbon County and the Sheridan foothills. Specific communities and locations within the storm watch area include Roundup, Melstone, Musselshell, Billings, Laurel, Huntley, Pompeys Pillar, Custer, Broadview, Lodge Grass, Pryor, Wyola, Bridger, Joliet, Fromberg, Belfry, Warren, Hardin, Crow Agency, Busby, Sheridan, Dayton, Ranchester, Big Horn and Story.