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Montana buried under latest storm

(MISSOULA)- Western Montana drivers are coping well with the latest storm, which has left the heaviest snowfall of the season so far this year in the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys. 

The storm moved in from the southwest Wednesday evening as snow spread north from the Bitterrroot. By this morning, even valley locations were reporting upwards of 5-to-6 inches of snow. Snow also spread across Northwest Montana as the morning progressed. 

That made the morning commute a challenge, with most roads snow packed, and side streets and roads obstructed with several inches of loose snow. However, since this isn't the first snow we've seen this month, most drivers were doing a good job of slowing down and getting around.  

Portions of I-90, U-S 93 and Highway 200 were plagued with stretches of blowing and drifting snow, reducing visibility.  

Snow was heavy on both sides of the Divide, with Helena expecting up to 10" before the storm passes. 

Road conditions are expected to improve throughout the day, as snowfall tapers off. But the snow will be replaced by bitterly cold temperatures, with lows into double digit sub-zero readings through Saturday morning. 


Zinke formally offered Interior Secretary post

(NEW YORK)- President-elect Donald Trump is formally announcing his nomination of freshman Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as the country's next Secretary of the Interior.

The formal announcement came this morning, a couple of days after sources on the Trump transition team had suggested Trump was going to pick the Whitefish Republican for the key post. 

Zinke's spokeswoman Heather Swift tweeted that the first term Congressman was saying "yes" to the offer. 

If confirmed by the Senate, the move would place Zinke at the head of one of the most important jobs in the country, with responsibilty over agencies like the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  

Zinke just won re-election to a second term last month with a decisive win over Democratic challenger Denise Juneau. News of the nomination has already prompted both Republicans and Democrats to start sorting through names for a replacement to be selected through a special election called by the Governor early next year. 


Montana group releases "Top 10" list for animal collisions 

Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage photo (BOZEMAN)- Two stretches of U-S 93 are among the Top 10 locations where you run the risk of striking an animal with your car, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage analyzes the risk drivers face colliding with deer, elk and other "ungulates" during their fall migrations. The study analyzed several pieces of data, including the number of carcasses  along the roads that had been struck and killed by cars.

At the top of the list is Highway 93 along the west shore of Flathead Lake, where over 350-carcasses were counted during a five year period from October through December between 2010 and 2015. That works out to nearly 6-animals per mile over a ten mile stretch of highway at the north end of the lake. 

Coming in at Number 8 on the list was also on Highway 93, north of Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley. Other trouble spots included the Beartooth Highway, portions of Interstate 90, and through Gallatin Canyon. 

The report cites Montana Highway Patrol stats showing over 250-injury crashes last year involving wildlife, with most of the crashes involving whitetail deer. 


Kalispell sets new record for all-time wettest October

Cloudy skies and rain have been the normal in NW Montana this year- GNP webcam photo (KALISPELL)- The last time it was this wet, you'd have to put the top up on your Model T. 

As of 6 a.m. this morning, Kalispell broke the record that's stood for more than a century, topping 3.41" of rain for the month of October. The old mark of 3.40" was set back in October of 2014. 

A very wet weather pattern which settled over the Northwest at the start of the month has continued to impact all of Western Montana's weather, but Northwest Montana has been getting the brunt of the storms. 

And with a few days left in the month, and more precipitation in the forecast, that record will just continue to add to the total. 

By comparison, Missoula has had just under 2" of rain so far this month. 


Authorities looking for Plains man who fled Washington courtroom

(KENNEWICK, WA.)- Authorities are on the lookout for a Plains man who fled an Eastern Washington courtroom after he was about to be convicted for sexually abusing a boy. 

The Tri-City Herald reports 79-year old William George Nicol escaped when he went to use the restroom during a break in proceedings, and then never returned to court. A witness saw him running for the parking lot. 

Nicol was convicted of multiple counts of child rape and molestation. He was accused of molesting a boy over a period of several years. 

The Benton County judge issued the arrest warrant, and authorities in Sanders County have been notified incase Nicol returns to Plains.