GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Areas of the northern Rocky Mountains looked more like mid-winter rather than early fall on Sunday as a snowstorm dumped record amounts of wind-driven snow that caused hazardous travel conditions and scattered power outages.
Winter storm warnings were posted for parts of western Montana, northern Idaho and northeast Washington. Snow also was forecast for areas in Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Nevada and California.
The brunt of the storm hit Montana where up to 2 feet of snow fell Saturday in the mountains and a record 14 inches fell in Great Falls with snow still falling Sunday.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared an emergency Sunday, allowing the state to mobilize resources to help affected areas.
“With an unprecedented winter storm throwing our state a surprise in September, state and local governments are working closely together to protect the health and safety of Montanans and our top priority is making sure that happens,” Bullock said in a statement. “Montanans should heed all warnings from state and local officials, travel safely, and be cautious during this time.”
Major interstates and highways remained open, but snow and ice covered many stretches of roadway in western Montana.
The storm was expected to wind down late Sunday and early Monday.
Bad weather also affected California, where a tornado touched down in a field as weekend thunderstorms swept through the central part of the state, dropping rain and dime-sized hail, forecasters said.
A National Weather Service forecaster said there was no damage from the twister.
Tornadoes in the Central Valley aren’t entirely unusual and are “weaker and more short-lived” than ones typically seen in the Midwest, the forecaster said.
The severe weather is the result of a cold front over the Pacific Northwest that is spinning out waves of unstable air as it moves east.