Wintry blast closes schools, plunges temperatures in Rockies

HELENA, Montana (AP) — Some schools in Montana took their earliest snow day in memory on Monday after a blizzard dumped several feet of snow, while plunging temperatures threatened crops across other parts of the Rocky Mountains in an unusually early blast of wintry weather.

Freeze warnings were in effect in parts of Utah and Idaho, and temperatures were expected to drop into the teens and twenties in those states and Montana overnight and this morning. The cold set in with the lingering fall storm system that dumped snow for three days across much of central and western Montana, including over one metre on the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.

While parts of the Rockies were dealing with frigid temperatures and unusually early snow, warnings of extreme wildfire danger emerged in eastern Utah and much of Colorado, where temperatures as high as the 30 degrees Celsius, gusty winds and dry air were expected to create critical conditions.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock has declared an emergency after the storm brought heavy, wet snow and high winds that closed roads, downed trees and caused scattered power outages. The declaration allows the state to mobilise resources to help areas that were hit. The snow and treacherous roads led to school closures on Monday in Montana towns near the Rocky Mountains that received the most snow.

A pedestrian crosses Front Street under snowfall in Missoula, Montana. PHOTO:AP