Montana Highway Patrol Copes With Nearly 30 Westside Crashes in 8-Hours
Judging from the dayshift Wednesday for Montana Highway Patrol troopers, we have a lot more work to do before we're used to winter driving again.
The National Weather Service forecasters in Missoula had warned it was going to be a rough day, with several inches of snow in the forecast and winds that could hamper visibility. And that's exactly what transpired, although the storm started to cause problems somewhat earlier than expected, starting right during the morning commute.
That caused a traffic backup on Highway 93 that extended from Missoula to halfway between Lolo and Florence, with other routes into the city, like Mullan Road, seeing miles-long delays.
And it got worse from there.
By mid-morning, the Montana Department of Transportation was warning of severe driving conditions on I-90 through the Missoula Valley, from Bonner to west to Frenchtown, and on U.S. 93 up Evaro Hill. The hazards came from a combination of the persistent snowfall, but also the windy conditions impacting visibility.
That's where the troopers come in.
The Montana Highway Patrol reports troopers responded to 21 incidents on I-90 between Lookout Pass and Garrison. That included multiple slide-offs and cases where trucks had either jackknifed or ran off the road. The most problematic crash involved several vehicles west of Drummond, which forced the complete closure of the westbound lanes, sending traffic onto the narrow frontage road which is Old Highway 10. Eastbound traffic was also squeezed down to one lane until the mess could be cleared up, which took several hours.
Additionally, MHP responded to another six crashes north of Missoula in the Mission and Flathead Valleys and west to Libby. Three additional crashes happened in Ravalli County. And those numbers don't include the multiple accidents and other problems local police and sheriff's deputies had to cope with.