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Winter storm watch, wind chill warning provide frigid lead-up to warmer holiday weekend

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A sun dog is seen above Bunsen Peak in Yellowstone National Park. Sun dogs are caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere. PHOTO BY DIANE RENKIN/NPS

By Jason Bacaj MANAGING EDITOR

Arctic air has placed potential record lows in the Bozeman forecast this week, but Big Sky is likely to avoid the worst of it, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS issued a winter storm watch and wind chill warning for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday. The storm is expected to drop between 2 and 5 inches of snow, with wind gusts upwards of 35 mph, which could push wind chills to as low as minus 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

The southern boundary of the frigid cold front roughly follows the Interstate 90 corridor, said Ray Greely, a forecaster with the NWS in Great Falls. The bitterly cold air has trouble rising over the mountains, he said, which should blunt the cold’s impact on higher elevation communities such as Big Sky.

“Wednesday through Thursday, that’ll probably be the coldest period,” Greely said.

The coldest stretch this week is expected to begin Wednesday and extend through Thursday. Greely said the forecasted low for Thursday morning—likely the coldest part of the day—is minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The current record low at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport for Dec. 22 is minus 41 degrees Fahrenheit, which was set in 1983.

The NWS doesn’t have a weather station in Big Sky, Greely said. But the winter storm that’s expected to drop between 2 and 5 inches has the potential to push the cold front farther south Wednesday. He said Big Sky is likely to see temperatures drop throughout the day on Wednesday, with a forecasted low of minus 30 that night.

Temperatures in Big Sky are expected to warm up to minus 5 on Thursday before reaching into the 20s over the holiday weekend, Greely said.

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