Tag Archives: Great Falls

Lima, Ohio to Great Falls, Montana

Today we embark on a lengthy 3-day trip, which covers 1,681 miles from Ohio to Montana. Got a long weekend drive ahead of us, so we don’t have a minute to waste!


A system is pushing its’ way out of the Eastern Great Lakes, with the backend of the system still kicking up a few showers over Western OH. The windshield will be wet as we head northwest towards Ft. Wayne, but with high pressure moving into the Midwest, some sun should peek out during the day. As we push through Chicago midday, we should have partly cloudy skies and overall pleasant conditions. We head up along I-90 towards Rockford then north into Wisconsin, following I-90 past Madison and the Wisconsin Dells before finishing the day in La Crosse.


Today is going to be a long day, but it’s all westward on I-90! An area of low pressure is swinging through the Northern Plains during the night last night and we could see some light snow on our car as we head out in the morning. A rain/snow mix is expected as we start the day, which then changes over to some light snow, but only briefly. We shouldn’t have many road issues since it was rain as it moved through the rest of Southern MN overnight. A slightly faster route would have been to head up I-94 into ND, but with this storm expected to bring 6-12″ right along I-94 throughout ND, I-90 is the much safer play. Clouds will dissipate throughout the day as the cold front pushes off to the east and our main weather issue of the day will be gusty northwest winds coming in behind the front. That’ll probably sap our gas mileage, but otherwise, a fairly uneventful day as we cruise on by Sioux Falls and all the west westward to Rapid City, where we end the day. Thankfully the speed limit is 80 in SD!


A bit of energy kicking up snow is found over Nebraska as we start our final day of the trip, but some snow showers could sneak into Rapid City as we start the day. This activity will continue pushing towards the south, which means its impact on us will be minimal as the main axis of high pressure is found over Eastern Montana into the Central Dakotas. Even though the morning and midday hours should be okay, an area of low pressure is pushing through the Pacific Northwest today, and looks like it’ll start producing snow in the lee of the Rockies once we get to the late afternoon hours. We should be okay to make it northwestward to Hwy 87 then continue westward, but the last 50-100 miles could be a bit of slow-going as the snow showers get going as we make our way into Great Falls.

Lynchburg, Virginia to Great Falls, Montana

It’s probably too late to see many fall colors en route, but it’s the beginning of the ski season, so a trip to western Montana doesn’t sound like a bad idea! The drive is going to last us 4 days, covering 2094 miles. That means we will average 523.5 miles a day at a pace of 65.4mph. That’s a little slow, but that’s what you get for traveling through mountains and Chicago.

DAY ONE (Tuesday)
It’s going to be a rocky start on our trip to the Rockies. A very active cold front is forecast to be descending from the Appalachians as we get a move on from Lynchburg. At the very least, we will start the day with very heavy rain, and perhaps some embedded thunderstorms. That heavy weather will last us until we reach the West Virginia state line, but there will be lingering showers until we pass through Charleston. From that point forward, we will be within the dry slot. Enjoy Ohio in all it’s glory, I guess. We’ll make it to the east side of Indianapolis before the day comes to a close.

DAY TWO (Wednesday)
Overnight, the cold front bringing us rain on Tuesday night will reform over the Tennessee Valley. We’ll wake up to a rainy, breezy day in eastern Indianapolis, but will get a bit of a respite by the time we reach Lafayette. It should be mostly dry through Chicago and Rockford, but some of the backwash associated with the area of low pressure will be producing some light snow showers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which we will encounter first somewhere between Janesville and Madison. These flurries might slow traffic in the bigger towns, but winds will be light, and it won’t accumulate enough to really slow us down out in the open country of western Wisconsin. We’ll call it a night in Elk Mound, halfway between Eau Claire and Menomonie.

DAY THREE (Thursday)
The unfortunate thing about an unfurling swath of low pressure when it’s cold out is that the effort to create clouds and flurries is so much less than it is to create clouds and drizzle when it’s warmer. With no impetus for this modicum of instability to clear out, we will be threatened by flurries in borth Minnesota and North Dakota. We’ll stop for the day in New Salem, North Dakota, west of Bismarck

DAY FOUR (Friday)
Those flurries will continue off and on overnight while we sleep in New Salem. But then, the Rocky Mountains and good fortune will step in! High pressure will develop over the Front range, sliding south through Montana and Wyoming and ensuring our drive through one of the most desolate stretches of North America will at least be without any weather concerns. We will get to Great Falls after sunset (thanks a lot latitude) but there is a chance the moon will be peaking through the clouds.

Lubbock, Texas to Great Falls, Montana

We are heading off on a south to north trek that will take us 2 1/2 days to complete. That’s one of the longer trips you can take without a huge west to east component. It’s 1305 miles between the two towns so our average speed will be about 66mph. Our daily goal will be 528.8 miles. Let’s ride the front range.

Our slow moving, weak area of low pressure continues to drift through the Rockies, but it will really get its act together when aided by some lee trading as the system descends into the High Plains. A dry slot will develop over the Texas Panhandle, but around the low itself, rain and thunderstorms will be heavy and at times torrential. We will likely snake around severe weather, but if we see any, it will be just after we cross into COlorado. Rain will continue until we reach the Aurora, Colorado area, just south of Denver’s airport.

An active pattern will continue through the center of the country, but we shouldn’t expect that widespread rain that we will encounter over Colorado tomorrow. Instead, there may be a few showers in the Denver area up to Fort Collins as we head out, but there is good agreement that we will see a long stretch of dry weather through southern Wyoming. The threat of rain will return, however, as we head north of Casper, and certainly by the time we get onto I-90. Isolated showers and storms will remain a possibility as we stop in Toluca, Montana, which is just east of Billings.

A system diving south through Alaska is going to help clear Montana out. Billings and most of southern Montana will be quite hospitable, but this little wave which reminds of a Clipper, will be a bundle of energy. Breezy winds and the first rounds of rain will arrive in Great Falls just before we do.


As Ryan had mentioned, the forecasts for Great Falls were all over the place as far as temperatures were concerned. Correctly, a Chinook wind stood firm throughout most of the day on Sunday, keeping low temps in the morning relatively mild in the low 30s. This seemed to throw off most of the prognostications, with predictions off anywhere from 6 to as much as 13 degrees! Mountains will do that to you I suppose. The NWS and WB tied for the top spot.

Saturday: High 41, Low 20.
Sunday: High 43, Low 33.
Forecast Grade: B

Buffalo, New York to Great Falls, Montana

We are going from one set of Falls, Niagara, to Great Falls. I assume because of the name, the Montana version is greater. It’s a 4 day trip, with the 4th day being the shortest. We will be covering 1911 miles at a pace of 64.4mph, which means the three longer days will be over after we have covered 515.6 miles on the road. Let’s head from lake effect to Chinook effect weather, and see what lies between.

A weak little area of high pressure will move into the eastern Great Lakes tomorrow,, which will actually stabilize the atmosphere and lead to calm winds between Buffalo and Cleveland, and indeed on towards Indiana. It’s a little surprising, but we won’t have to deal with the lake effect on our way out of Buffalo, or in Erie or Cleveland, notoriously snowy environs! That said, there is a weak wave developing over the Mid Mississippi Valley, which will be headed towards Chicago at about the same time as we will be arriving there. After passing through South Bend, Indiana, we may begin to see the first signs of precipitation. It will be falling as light snow, which will probably be just enough to tie up traffic, even on the weekend, in Chicago. The snow will be driven by southwesterly flow, and not anything off of Lake Michigan, so it won’t be terribly heavy, and will be fairly gentle. We will spend the night in Whiting, Indiana, which is just across the border from Chicago. In fact, it’s north of East Chicago. I hear it’s a nice neighborhood.

The snow will still be falling in Chicago as we leave, and we will still have to contend with the flurries as far west as Rockford, but there will be an abrupt clearing when we hit north central Illinois and central Wisconsin. We will have an easy passage through the Twin Cities, eventually settling in around Melrose, Minnesota, which is west of Saint Cloud.

We will definitely be hitting the Plains on Monday. After a fairly easy journey though Fargo, winds will begin to pick up around Bismarck. The brisk southerly wind will mean a warm up, but will portend to a snowy future. As we approach the Montana border, the threat for flurries will pick up west of Dickinson. The emptiness of the Prairie will lead to some reduced visability for the remaining drive for the day, despite the fact that there won’t be much snow. This is how winter works in this part of the world. We will end the day around Glendive, Montana, just in time to end the part of our trip that will use interstates.

A nice thing for eastern Montana is that most of the weather that comes from the north Pacific wastes itself in the mountains along the Idaho border. There will be a doozy of a system slamming into the high country west of Great Falls all day on Tuesday, and really, overnight on Monday as well. It may get a little cloudy and foggy through the part of Montana we will see, but trust me, it could be a whole lot worse. There is a very good chance that our entire trip between Glendive and Great Falls will be dry. To stay on the safe side, I will say there might be a flurry around the Musselshell River, but as long as we stop in Great Falls and don’t keep headed west, we should be fine.

Great Falls, Montana

Great Falls, along with the rest of Montana, are notoriously difficult places to forecast for, so obviously, we are getting the year off to a good start.

At 953AM, MT, Great Falls was reporting a temperature of 35 degrees and clear skies. A stout southwest wind (to about 30mph) was the cause for the warm up, as Chinook winds meant Great Falls was 32 degrees warmer than Helena, where winds were calm. This common wind flow pattern is often analyzed as a stationary front in eastern Montana, but the truth was that the area is under mid level high pressure with an overriding westerly flow.
High pressure will remain in place over western and central Montana for the next couple of days, and with a trough arriving in the Pacific Northwest, a southwesterly bent to the flow coming off the mountains, Great Falls will likely see some warm temperatures during the afternoon and chilly temperatures overnight. The sharpness of the ridge indicates breezier weather, which will naturally mean warmer temperatures.
Tomorrow – Breezy and seasonably warm, High 42, Low 15
Sunday – Winds continue with increasing clouds late, High 47, Low 20

TWC: Tomorrow – Sunny High 34, Low 23
Sunday – Partly Cloudy High 36, Low 25

AW: Tomorrow – Partly sunny High 42, Low 21
Sunday – Partly sunny, snow after 7pm High 39, Low 23

NWS: Tomorrow – Sunny High 39, Low 19
Sunday – Partly sunny, High 42, Low 27

WB: Tomorrow – Sunny High 40, Low 19
Sunday – Mostly cloudy High 44, Low 26

NONE OF THESE FORECASTS MAKE SENSE. The Weather Channel operating as if it will be cloudy and calm the whole while, if you take their temperature forecasts into account? SNOW?! I have no idea what the heck is going on out here. I see wind, I’m forecasting some major league Chinook. Bring it on, Montana.
Great Falls

Great Falls, Montana to Altoona, Pennsylvania

On the road again! We are off on an east bound trek, but once again with Pennsylvania as a destination. It will take us about 4 days to get from Montana to Pennsylvania, covering 1928 miles. A blend of highways (rather than interstates) and interstates through urban areas will keep our pace slower than expected, at 64mph. We will cover 512 miles a day, however, on our cross country adventure.


We are in luck! There is a lee trough developing over the northern Plains, bringing a boatload of rain to the Dakotas overnight tonight and into tomorrow morning. We will be starting in western Montana, however, and taking our time as we head eastward through rural parts of the state. It will keep raining in North Dakota through about 4pm which is about the time we hit the North Dakota line. Things will be drying out when we arrive in New Salem, the destination for Day One.

We continue to chase the system through the Upper Midwest as it hooks up with a low moving through Canada. We may encounter some clouds as we reach the Twin Cities in the late afternoon, but there won’t be any rain even after we arrive in Menomonie, Wisconsin, which is about 40 miles across the border from Minnesota.

Something resembling a cold front will develop from Ontario to about Kansas over the weekend. We will be north of it, mostly, through Sunday at least. When we hit Chicago, we might be greeted by an isolated thunderstorms or two, but nothing that will slow us down worse than Chicago traffic already would. Our day will end in Bristol, Indiana, just east of Elkhart and Goshen, watching clouds on the southern horizon.

If all goes according to plan, we have planned this trip perfectly. Our route will take us north of the rapidly developing cold front, which means we should stay dry. It’s going to slide south of Altoona so we will enjoy some bearable temperatures and mostly sunny skies when we arrive in town.

Temperatures crash

I promised a brutal forecast in Great Falls, and I was right. Everything looked OK on Thursday, with temperatures in the low 40s, just like everyone thought. And then? Well, then Friday happened. Clouds, and more importantly an Arctic ridge got wedged against the northern Rockies. High temperatures were lower than some people’s forecast lows, reaching only 23, while lows plummeted to 11. This was accompanied by about an inch of snow, and busts for every forecaster. Dramatic, appalling busts. Victoria-Weather managed the top forecast, but it wasn’t anything to be proud of, that’s for sure.

Thursday – High 41, Low 22
Friday – .8″ of snow, High 23, Low 11

Grade: D

Great Falls, Montana to Bismarck, North Dakota

This is probably one of the least visually stimulating road trips I’ve ever done. Granted we’ll be leaving the Rockies at the start of the trip, but after that, it’s hundreds of miles in eastern Montana and western North Dakota of little civilization and lots of sky to view. Luckily, this trip is only 545 miles and should be covered in a day’s time. So let’s get a move-on!

With the arctic airmass entrenched over the northern US, as mentioned in my earlier Bismarck forecast, some chilly air will be found throughout much of the region come morning. However, with a slightly warmer airmass pushing up over the Northern Rockies into Western Montana, this is going to kick up some snow showers over the Great Falls area later on Friday. There could be some patchy fog and some low clouds to start the day, but we should avoid the snow showers as we trek eastward along HWY 87. As we move into midday, the clouds should thin out as we move away from the mountains, leaving more sunny skies for us to enjoy. As we move into Eastern Montana, and eventually into Western North Dakota, clear skies and light winds will greet us and make for smooth sailing for the remainder of the trip into Bismarck. Hooray we made it!… Now what?

Great Falls, Montana

Hoo, boy, this forecast is going to be a nightmare. The Rockies are brutal.

At 953PM, MT, Great Falls was reporting a temperature of 35 degrees with partly cloudy skies. A seasonably strong northerly jet was riding the Rockies, and though there was no discernible surface boundary associated with this flow, it was triggering some high clouds and snow west of Great Falls.
As the jet strengthens and shifts into the High Plains, an additional, weaker jet streak will move just to the south of Great Falls, manufacturing a sharp trough along the lee of the northern Rockies. Tomorrow will be dry in Great Falls, but the angle of flow associated with this trough on Friday makes it entirely possible that upsloping flow will generate some substantial snow.
Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy, High 43, Low 28
Friday – Snow in the afternoon, with clouds and fog likely. 2-5″ of snow possible, High 28, Low 17

TWC: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny skies. High 42, Low 26
Friday – Mostly cloudy with snow flurries and snow showers, especially in the afternoon. High 33, Low 29

AW: Tomorrow – Partly sunny High 40, Low 24
Friday – Intervals of clouds and sunshine High 34, Low 17

NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, High 43, Low 28
Friday – Snow likely, mainly after 11am. Mostly cloudy High 31, Low 22

WB: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy (rain/snow in the evening) High 43, Low 29
Friday – A chance of snow in the morning…then snow likely in the afternoon High 30, Low 23

The Weather Channel is legitimately that different from everyone else. Who knows, man. Radar with a few flurries showing up here and there.