'I've never seen a storm like this:' Montana digs out from under feet of snow after September snowstorm

Chaffin Mitchell

The first big snowstorm of the season blasted the northern Rockies over the weekend. The early season storm unloaded up to 3-4 feet of snow in spots, caused blizzard conditions and set several new daily snowfall records across Montana.

"The combination of a storm from the Pacific Ocean, a fresh injection of cold air from northern Canada, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and a northeast-ascending flow that squeezed extra moisture from the atmosphere produced the amazing snowfall," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

Blizzard conditions were reported across the northern and southern Rocky Mountain front. They were also confirmed at the Cut Bank, Montana, Airport Sunday where observations reported moderate to heavy snowfall with one-quarter to one-half mile visibility and sustained winds around 30 mph.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued an executive order declaring a winter storm emergency in the state on Sunday.

"The storm brought heavy, wet snow with accumulation amounts up to three feet in some locations. High winds have downed trees and power lines resulting in road closures, emergency travel conditions, intermittent cellular service and power outages," the governor's office said in a press release.

The storm was winding down early Monday, but many roads remained snow covered and icy. Towering snow drifts, some as high as 7 feet near the town of Bynum, have been reported. Forecasters also cautioned against an additional threat once the snow subsided.

In the wake of the storm, unseasonably cold conditions will delay snowmelt in some areas and bring the end of the growing season for some agricultural producers.

The hard freeze could bring additional agricultural impacts to farmers who already were dealing snow-covered fields.

Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories were in effect for parts of the northern Rockies, Cascades and Sierra Nevada early on Sunday morning as snow continued to fall. Most of those warnings and advisories were canceled by Monday morning.

The magnitude and timing of the storm prompted the National Weather Service to declare it as "historic" last week.

"I've never seen a storm like this, period, and certainly never in September. 18-22 inches of snow fell at our home but because of the wind, the drifts are very high," Cassie Barnett, 50, of Fairfield, Montana, told AccuWeather via Twitter. "More than 5-6 feet in places... We moved up here from Las Vegas to raise our family and I was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived my first 20 years there. All this snow still blows my mind!"

Barnett shared a video to Twitter showing snow being removed via tractor around her property.

Highways across northwestern Montana experienced reduced visibility due to blowing and drifting snow over the weekend.

There was at least one vehicular accident amid slippery roads. Montana Highway Patrol trooper Amanda Villa posted on Twitter an image of a car that had slipped into a ditch and flipped over. Villa reported that everyone who had been in the vehicle was okay.

"I live rural, down gravel roads, and we are snowed in right now," Barnett said. "Eventually the county plow will come by. I'm sure the actual paved roadways are clear by now because the state plows those. I just can't get to the paved roads yet from my house."

Barnett said their home still had power and she and her family were doing "great" despite being snowed in.

A preliminary snowfall of 9.7 inches fell in Great Falls, Montana, on Saturday, which beat the daily record of 6.1 inches set in 1954. This is also the earliest date of a snowfall of 9.7 inches or greater, with the previous earliest date being Nov. 8, 2012.

The two-day snowfall total of 19.3 inches in Great Falls is the second highest two-day snow total ever for any time of year. The only winter storm to ever produce a higher two-day snow total occurred April 27-28, 2009, when 24.2 inches were measured, according to the NWS.

From 11 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday, 17.7 inches fell, breaking the previous 24-hour snowfall record of 16.8 inches on April 20, 1973.

Missoula, Montana, recorded a trace of snow on Saturday, which is the first time a trace of snow has ever been recorded on the date. On Sunday, 1.7 inches of snow had fallen over Missoula, breaking the city's all-time September snowfall record of 1.5 inches set in 1934.

As of Sunday morning, Spokane, Washington, had received 3.1 inches of snow. Prior to this event, the snowiest September on record was in 1926 when 1.4 inches fell.

The highest snowfall amount as of Monday was 52 inches, in Babb, Montana. The second-highest total that came in was 48 inches in Browning. Browning Public Schools announced they would be closed on Monday.

A total of 15 inches of snow was reported near Kiowa, Montana, while another report found that East Glacier Park, Montana, had received 21 inches of snow.

By early afternoon local time on Saturday, 13 inches of snow had been reported near Choteau, Montana. The report also mentioned that ice has started to cover highways that were previously plowed.

Officials in Choteau reported numerous downed power lines and trees due to severe wind on Saturday around noon, which created dangerous conditions.

Ahead of the storm, Glacier National Park in Montana announced road closures. While St. Mary Campground remains open, "camping not advised" signs have been put in place.

In the wake of the snow, those left without power or cleaning up storm debris will face bitterly cold conditions with record lows challenged Monday night.

"We are always prepared for a storm just because we live so rural, so my pantry is always full," Barnett said.

Despite not losing power during the storm, the 50-year-old Barnett said they always make sure to prepare for the worst.

"I did make sure to fill the bathtub and have extra water on hand. Our home is all electric including our well, so when we lose power we also lose access to our water."

Additional reporting by AccuWeather staff writers Mark Puleo and Kevin Byrne