Snow, snow and more snow is in the forecast, although a blizzard like winter storm Brutus that swept through the area in November is not expected any time soon.
National Weather Service by this morning had upgraded its hazardous weather advisory to a winter storm warning stretching from the Rockies east through Blaine County, with lighter snow predicted farther east.
The long-range forecast also calls for more snow and colder temperatures than normal over the next few weeks, with the above-normal snowfall expected to last through December. Specific predictions of amounts or temperatures in particular areas have not been issued.
Weather Service reported this morning that snow began falling in the Rockies Thursday, with the precipitation expected to stretch into north-central Montana by tonight.
The winter storm warning for Blaine, Hill and Liberty counties is in effect from 5 p. m. today through 5 p. m. Saturday. The warning says 2 to 4 inches of snow are expected to fall in the lower elevations with 5 to 10 inches in the Bear Paw Mountains.
That forecast also calls for temperatures to drop, with the high in Havre expected to hit 16 Saturday with the low that night 1 degree.
Temperatures are expected to moderate next week, with highs back into the 20s and 30s. Weather Service and The Weather Channel both predict a chance of some more snow in the middle of the week.
Longer range, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, the federal agency that oversees Weather Service, has put out predictions for colder-than-normal temperatures and higher-than-normal precipitation for most of Montana out about 10 to 15 days.
The above-normal precipitation is expected to continue through the month, with AccuWeather.Com predicting temperatures in the 20s to low 30s around Christmas, with the service’s forecast for Christmas Day calling for cloudy skies with a high of 34 and a low of 5. The average temperatures on the 25th are a high of 28 and a low of 6.
AccuWeather predicts a few storms and snow flurries to develop from mid-December through the end of the month.
NOAA said the expected El Niño system has not developed, which changed the earlier predictions for winter in the area.
An El Niño develops when warmer-than-normal water temperatures develop in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It typically leads to drier-than-normal conditions and warmer-than-normal temperatures in the region including Montana.
If a La Niña, with colder-than-normal equatorial Pacific temperatures, develops it tends to lead to colder-than-normal and wetter-than-normal conditions in the region including Montana.
NOAA said earlier this year that conditions appeared to favor an El Niño pattern developing, but it never materialized. The latest report says that the Pacific weather patterns are unlikely to have much play in conditions this winter. Over the long term, no predictions of above- or below-normal temperatures or precipitation are in effect for Montana.