Residents heed winter weather warning, stock up on supplies

Liz Kearney
Friday morning, Park County officials recommended “essential travel only” as a winter storm moved into the area bringing low temperatures, snow and whiteout conditions. 
“We’re seeing heavy snow over the region,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Dan Borsum, in Billings, said Friday morning. “We’re getting pummeled by a plume of heavy moisture from the Pacific, coming over a very cold area. And as an added bonus, the winds are going to get squirrely as low pressure moves through. We expect the snow that’s falling now to start blowing pretty good.” 
The snow is expected to taper off by Saturday morning, but then very strong winds are expected Monday and Tuesday, Borsum said. 
“The wind’s going to be a tremendous challenge. Two to 3-foot drifts are going to be pretty common, and they could be much bigger.” 
Anyone who has to go out in a vehicle needs to be prepared in case of an accident or slide-off. 
“Some of those rural roads are going to become really impassable, Borsum said, “and it’s going to be cold, minus 15 in some areas. It’s not going to take long for someone to walk away from a stuck vehicle to be in trouble.” 
The heavy moisture, coming across the Pacific from Hawaii, is often called a “Pineapple express.” The weather pattern is also called an “atmospheric river,” Borsum said, due to its high moisture content. The pattern stretches across western Montana over Missoula and as far west as Seattle, he said. 
Using its Nixle emergency information system, which issues alerts via text, email and voicemail, a 9:16 a.m. Park County alert stated, “White-out conditions US 89 South Pine Creek area. Blowing drifting snow. Dangerous windchill. Best to stay home. Essential travel only.” 
Park County Rural Fire Chief Dann Babcox, in a meeting Friday morning, responded briefly via text to a reporter’s questions.
He said there was minimal visibility on Interstate 90, and the passing lane was snowpacked. All emergency service agencies are in emergency mode. 
Pine Creek Road was temporarily impassable Friday morning, with county snowplows dispatched. Visibility on U.S. 89 South as well as East River Road was very poor with multiple slide-offs reported. 
“If people don’t absolutely have to be out then don’t be out,” he texted. 
Area residents, alert to warnings to stay home and off the roads, took the message to heart and stocked up on groceries Thursday, Town & Country Foods Manager Catherine Scarffe said Friday. No one was available at Albertsons to speak to a reporter. 
“We were so busy yesterday,” Scarffe said. “It was like Armageddon. Milk and bread were wiped off the shelves. It was the biggest storm buy-out I’ve seen.” 
Aside from milk and bread, soup-making supplies were also hard hit, she said. 
“Broths were completely taken. Anything warm, they went for,” Scarffe said. 
But the shopping hasn’t carried over to this morning. 
“Today is so dead,” she said. “I’m glad people are staying home.”