Missoula Wind Chill Bad, But Not Near the Records
I'm not one to diminish how cold it's been across Western Montana this week, as an exceptionally large, strong arctic front has been pummeling us with dangerous wind chill temperatures since Tuesday.
But now, with the wind finally abating, and temperatures recovering, it's time to check where this event stacks up against recent storms this winter, and also the all-time Missoula wind chill mark.
And while it's been miserable since the front arrived with a whoosh on Tuesday afternoon, creating conditions so bad Missoula Police had to issue warnings about the "white out", it's only half as bad as what the "Garden City" has seen in years past.
Turns out we shouldn't be complaining
This week's arctic front was a doozy. At one point Thursday it extended all the way from Southern Saskatchewan through Alberta and Montana and west into Idaho. That's HUGE. What was also remarkable was the length of the wind event. Often these conditions in Western Montana will be a problem for a day, perhaps two. But it's unusual to have to deal with bitter wind chills for most of a week.
The worst hit Thursday morning, when unofficial wind chills across Western Montana were anywhere from -25 to -30. Unofficial readings in Lincoln, in the Upper Blackfoot, were close to 40 below.
The National Weather Service Office in Missoula tells me the average for this storm is -22, with a total of 20 hours below that 20 below wind chill mark. But Meteorologist Robert Nester looked at the numbers and found that's actually toward the second half of the list.
It's actually not as bad as the pre-Christmas storm
Nester says February of 1989, still one of the worst instances of arctic outflow across the entire Northwest is still on top. That time Missoula hit an all-time average wind chill record of -40.5, with 92 hours of at least 20-below wind chill, a mark I hope I'm never around to see broken! The end of December '78 and the start of January '79 were even worse. That year, Missoula had 12 days in a row where at least one hour was -20 or lower for an hour.
But if you're new to Montana you're tougher than you think. The blizzard and cold before Christmas in December is actually #6 on the list when the wind chill hit an average of 29 below.
Is anyone else looking forward to spring?