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Wintry mix of rain and snow this week

Back to back weather makers will keep the threat of showers in the forecast this week.

The first weather makers will begin is pass through western Montana today. Valley rain and snow will likely begin this morning. Temperatures will be just below freezing; therefore, black ice will be possible through 10AM. Slushy accumulation of up to an inch will be possible this morning across northwest Montana.

The valley mix will change to snow Tuesday night and Wednesday as colder air enters Montana. Snowfall of a trace to 2 inches will be possible for most valley locations. Mountain passes will see 3 to 8 inches, with locally higher amounts possible in the backcountry.

Beaverhead, Madison, Jefferson, Broadwater, and Gallatin Counties are under a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY from 8 PM tonight through 10 AM Wednesday. Total snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches, with localized amounts up to 3 to 6 inches, are expected. This advisory includes the following locations Wisdom, Dillon, Monida Pass, Wise River, Lincoln, MacDonald Pass, Rogers Pass, Ennis, Norris Hill, Raynolds Pass, Twin Bridges, Virginia City, Boulder, Boulder Hill, Homestake Pass, Whitehall, Townsend, White Sulphur Springs, Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Bozeman Pass, and Targhee Pass.

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY from 2 PM today until 5 PM Wednesday for the West Glacier Region. Total snow accumulations 3 to 6 for the lower elevations near West Glacier. 8 to 12 inches are possible over Marias Pass.

Our second weather maker will bring the threat of a winter mix to valley locations on Thursday, but it will quickly turn to snow Thursday and Friday. We will continue to track this system as accumulations are likely.

Drier weather is expected this weekend.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 2:37 pm

Ex-seasonal firefighter sentenced for igniting another fire

A former seasonal Montana firefighter who acknowledged that he deliberately sparked dozens of wildfires five years ago has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for starting another blaze in 2016.

Helena resident James Frederick Maw was sentenced on Monday. Maw lit 20 fires in 2013 in Montana, causing nearly $1 million in damage.

He was arrested in the York-Nelson area in full firefighting gear holding a trigger-operated lighter. He initially said he was a contract firefighter but later said he started the fires because he enjoyed the camaraderie of firefighting and needed the financial payoff. He received a 40-year suspended sentence for the 2013 offenses.

While on probation, he was arrested in April 2016 for lighting a fire on a ranch where he worked.

Published on 9 January 2018 | 9:29 am

Bus offers rides from Hamilton to Missoula

A nonprofit bus service in Ravalli County is offering transportation for the general public from Hamilton to Missoula five days a week.

In August extra federal funding allowed Bitter Root Bus to provide the service. But people aren't signing up, so the nonprofit has only been running one day a week to Missoula.

Bitter Root Bus is trying to change that. It's taken out ads in a local newspaper and in a community flier.

On Monday we rode with Bitter Root Bus driver Doug Kent as he picked up two clients in Hamilton and drove them to places around town.

Kent said generally he's busy five days a week. He said there are usually three Bitter Root buses on the road on any given day.

The service is especially popular with seniors and others who can't drive or find it difficult.

"We've got people we take to work that have no other way to do it," said Kent. "We take the elderly to doctor's appointments or physical therapy or shopping."

The bus takes riders to Missoula every Tuesday. It leaves in the morning and comes back in the afternoon.

Although Bitter Root Bus would like to provide the five-day-a-week service to Missoula, ridership numbers to the Garden City have only been enough to merit a one-day-a-week trip.

"We just can't get anybody to sign up," said Bitter Root Bus transportation coordinator Sharna Paddock. "There have been some days that we have gone other than Tuesday but not five days yet."

Paddock said her agency has taken out ads in a local newspaper and a local community flier.

She thought the service would appeal to clients who need to go to doctors in Missoula. She thought riders who need dialysis treatment in Missoula would find it especially appealing.

We met Nova Berry, who had arranged to be picked up at her home and taken to an appointment in Hamilton.

Berry said she takes the Hamilton to Missoula bus about once a month.

"I usually go for a business appointment," she said, "and then I finish with lunch at the mall."

Paddock said the extra federal funds the nonprofit is applying to the Missoula route could disappear if ridership doesn't improve.

Fares for Bitter Root Bus vary, from about $15 a round trip from Hamilton to Missoula and less the farther north you live.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 5:57 am

Missoula's 10-year plan to end homelessness enters third phase

Missoula officials gave a crowded room of people an update Monday on the progress of the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Several residents at the Poverello Center complained there were not enough beds at the shelter.

"There is not enough bedding here for anybody," said one resident.

"There are people sleeping on the floor," added another.

Hundreds of people in Missoula roam the streets each day not knowing where they are going to lay their head next.

Reaching Home, Missoula's 10-year plan to end homelessness, launched in 2012.

"I can tell you our shelters are all full right now -- the Poverello Center, family shelters, so we are at capacity, and we still have people that are un sheltered," said Reaching Home coordinator Theresa Williams.

The Poverello Center has around 100 beds and 80 mats, which are all first come first served. For those who do not make it in time, they are out of luck, but the city plans to change that.

"The solution to homelessness is housing. So it's really trying to understand what are their needs and how can we help them and match them to the right housing intervention," said Williams.

The plan is entering its third phase, which is sustainability.

"We have a system in place, (a) crisis response system, so we can make sure homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring. So we are tracking all of that, and you can't say it is sustainable without having the data to back that up with," said Williams.

Each year in January the plan tracks the number of people experiencing homelessness at that point in time. Since 2011 the number of homeless in Missoula has decreased by 98 people.

Although it is impossible to end homelessness completely, Missoula's plan focuses on preventing it from happening. ]]>

Published on 9 January 2018 | 5:56 am

New restaurant and casino coming to Missoula's North Reserve St.

The Missoula City Council approved a zoning change and a conditional use permit to allow Johnson Restaurant Group, Inc., to have an all beverage license and gaming.

The restaurant group is looking at bringing an Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom franchise to North Reserve Street, at the former Johnny Carino's location.

Company president Jon Johnson sees this as a great opportunity for Missoula.

"Our company, in general, is very community minded," said Johnson.
Johnson wants to keep work on the project as local as possible.

"From the real estate agent to the architect on down to a local contractor who can hopefully build this for us," said Johnson.

Johnson hopes they can begin construction on the restaurant and casino in March, with the goal of being finished by the middle of summer.

This will be the third Old Chicago Pizza in Montana.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 5:46 am

New leadership takes over in Bozeman

Elected two years ago, Cyndy Andrus took over as Bozeman city mayor on Monday night. She has served the city for eight years both as a former commissioner and deputy mayor.

"I really enjoy the public service work. It's gratifying. It's challenging but it makes you think," Andrus told NBC Montana during a sit down interview prior to her swearing in ceremony.

The mayor has a diverse background. She has worked in the Bozeman Chamber of Commerce and also as a seasonal ranger at Yellowstone National Park.

"When I left the park service I really wanted to be near Yellowstone National Park so I moved to Bozeman," she said.

Andrus said she has three main focuses for the next two years. One of those is garnering public support for a new Law and Justice Center. For years the city has worked to convince voters to build new law enforcement facilities. Two bonds presented have both been turned down.

Also on Andrus' list is tackling the issue of affordable housing. She hopes to work toward solutions that will make it easier to live in Bozeman.

In the short term, Andrus wants to finalize the adoption of the city's strategic plan. It is a guiding document to help city leaders cope with growth.

"Once we get our strategic plan adopted and implemented, that will help with some of these issues that we have going on," Andrus said.

Andrus believes growth is inevitable. Even so, she wants to ensure the city never changes at its core.

"The look of Bozeman will be changing in the future but I hope that the feel of this place continues to remain something that's authentic and unique," she said.

Outgoing Mayor Carson Taylor has faith that she and her new commission will guide the city in the right direction.

"I feel really confident in this commission. I think they'll be thoughtful. I think they understand the issues," said Taylor.

When asked what she hopes people will most remember about her term, Andrus said, "I hope they remember me as someone who was willing to listen and take the time to hear and implement those new ideas."

Just before Mayor Andrus was sworn in, Taylor gave one last speech. He thanked city staff for their work and gave a tearful thank you to his wife. To the community he said, "If we all work to lift each other up and work for the common good, then our future is bright. As I leave this chapter in my life, I can tell you I believe our future is bright."

Also on Monday night, Chris Mehl made the move from commissioner to deputy mayor. I-Ho Pomeroy was sworn in for her second term as commissioner. New to the city commission is Terry Cunningham who was also sworn in.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 5:43 am

Lake County sheriff makes sure residents know jail is full

The sheriff of a northwestern Montana county wants to make sure residents understand that the jail is full.

The Missoulian reports that starting about three weeks ago, Lake County Sheriff Don Bell began posting on the department's Facebook page a list of people who were cited for crimes, rather than jailed, because there was no room to house them.

Bell says he has to weigh the odds between public safety and being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in deciding whether to hold more than 46 inmates.

Bell is hoping better awareness might encourage citizens to ask the county commission to consider a new jail, which a study has found is inadequate.

He says one could be built for about $20 million. Commissioner Gale Decker noted the county's tax revenues total $12 million a year.

Published on 9 January 2018 | 3:49 am

Crews work to repair water main breaks in Bozeman

Water and sewer workers responded to two water main breaks in three days this weekend, then to two service leaks on Monday.

City officials responded to a water main break on Peach Street and Bozeman Avenue Friday, which caused an estimated $5,000 in damage to the road.

Two blocks of homes on Bozeman Avenue lost water for more than 24 hours Saturday due to a water main break caused by corrosion, according to water and sewer superintendent John Alston.

"In my career this is one of the bigger road restorations we've had to do after a main break," Alston said.

Alston told NBC Montana the two pipes that burst over the weekend are made of cast iron. He said they pipes are more susceptible to possible damage caused by fluctuating temperatures.

"When we get these moderate temperatures where we're really cold and then start to moderate up a little bit that's when we see the issues," Alston said. "Snow on this street really helps insulate the water mains, but warmer weather drives the frost deeper, and as the frost gets thicker and deeper it slowly puts pressure on our water mains."

Alston said about 35 percent of Bozeman's water mains are made up of cast iron pipes.

"Most of the time they do fine, but if there is a weak spot, then it broke," Alston said.

He told NBC Montana age, material and weather play a role in breaks. The pipe involved in one of the breaks was about 90 years old, according to Alston.

Alston hopes to have the main on Peach Street and Bozeman Avenue repaired by Wednesday. He expects the city to revisit the issue and possibly replace the entire main this spring.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 3:32 am

Mississippi couple receives support from Flathead community after truck fire

A Mississippi family moving to Bigfork lost all their belongings when their 26-foot long U-Haul truck burned to the ground near Deer Lodge on Dec. 31.

Adreanna and Brandon Evans and their 11-month old daughter's cross-country road trip was supposed to be a step forward.

Both of them have jobs lined up -- Adreanna at the Kalispell hospital and Brandon in construction.

They lost their birth certificates, warm clothing, furniture and an antique collection of porcelain dolls handed down to Adreanna by her ailing grandmother.

However, Adreanna says the people of the Flathead Valley were quick to help after she made a post to a Facebook group page.

"I didn't want handouts, I just wanted -- I couldn't buy everything brand new," she explained. "I had to start somewhere, and I never expected everyone to be so giving and loving and welcoming to us."

The Evans family received a television, a couch and homemade quilts -- even offers of dinner so they can start their new life here with at least something.

"There are things that we won't get back, that I'll miss, that I'll never get back, but it's just one of those things in life, you go through highs and lows, and this is a low,' says Brandon Evans.

For now, the couple is staying with Adreanna's father in Bigfork. They are thankful to be alive and to have a roof over their heads.

They filed an insurance claim with U-Haul and are waiting to hear back.

"The insurance doesn't hurry," she said.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 3:16 am

Montana Tech faces $3 million budget shortfall

As Montana Tech students wrapped up the first day of spring semester Monday there may be anxiety kicking in for some faculty members in light of a $3 million budget shortfall.

Staff layoffs and unfilled faculty positions may be on the horizon as early as July, according to school officials.

Montana Tech provost Doug Abbott tells NBC Montana he's confident students will see little to no impact.

Abbott said in 2015 Tech had the highest enrollment in school history with 2,980 students, but in this 2017-18 academic year there are fewer students than usual.

Records show 2,700 students this fall, and it's forcing administrators to cut back.

"We're right-sizing the campus," Abbott said. "When enrollment was going up we were adding faculty and staff. Now that enrollment is going down we need to right-size the campus with the number of students we have."

Another reason for the cuts is the lack of state funds from the previous legislative session, Abbott added.

In response, Abbott said some staff may be laid off starting July 1. For tenured faculty cuts aren't anticipated, but some vacant positions won't be filled.

Abbott said there is a silver lining.

"Some of these positions could be added back into the budget. We're very fortunate to have reserve money that we can use in emergencies like this," Abbott said.

As for students, Abbott said there may be fewer courses offered.

Tech student Nathan Burrington is worried.

"That could be a huge blow to this school, just in terms of getting diversity in it and really increasing all opportunities for students in the STEM program," Burrington said.

In 2013 the average class ratio of students to faculty was 18 to 1, and now it's about 14 to 1, according to Abbott. He said it's not efficient.

Despite the uncertainty, Abbott's hopeful.

"We have every intention of emerging from this process stronger and being more efficient than we currently are," Abbott said.

Officials said cuts won't take effect until the next academic year.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 1:58 am

Advisory issued for missing children believed taken by mother

A Missing and Endangered Person Advisory has been issued by the Billings Police Department for 3-year-old Mya Cleveland and 1-year-old Ryann Cleveland.

The young girls were taken by their noncustodial mother, Amanda Dobson, who is known to use drugs.

A photo previously released by Montana authorities was not Mya. No photos are available for either of the girls. Amanda Dobson is pictured above.

Dobson is 35 years old, white, 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, with blue eyes and blonde hair.

The children are believed to be in danger. Their is no known vehicle or direction of travel.

Billings police are asking anyone with information to call 406-657-8461.


Published on 9 January 2018 | 1:45 am

Question of the Day Jan. 8, 2018

Published on 9 January 2018 | 12:38 am

Belgrade shooting victim identified

The Gallatin County Sheriff's office says Lauren Walder Dewise, 35, of Bozeman, was killed in a shooting in Belgrade.

Police were called about 9 a.m. Sunday to a Belgrade home, where they found one person dead and another injured from apparent gunshot wounds.

Belgrade Police Chief E.J. Clark said investigators identified a suspect, who was taken into custody.

Belgrade police are still investigating the case.


Published on 8 January 2018 | 11:34 pm

Two storms impacting area this week

It will be an unsettled week across western Montana as two storm systems will bring rain and snow to the region.

The first will enter the region early Tuesday morning, with valley rain and snow developing and mountain snow after 2 am in Kalispell, 3 am in Missoula and 5 am in Butte and Bozeman. Temperatures will be a little above to below freezing, so roads will be wet, slushy and icy. Lows in the 20s and lower 30s.

The valley mix will change to snow Tuesday night and Wednesday as colder air enters Montana. Snowfall of a trace to 2 inches in the valleys and 3 to 12 inches in the mountains.

A stronger storm system will bring a valley mix on Thursday and then it turns to all snow late Thursday and Friday. Accumulations are likely with this storm.

Highs in the upper 20s and 30s Wednesday and the 30s Thursday. Highs will cool again to the upper 20s and 30s Friday and this weekend. Drier weather is expected this weekend.


Published on 8 January 2018 | 10:01 pm

Restoration of protections for Yellowstone grizzlies urged

Conservationists and a Montana Indian tribe have asked a judge to restore protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears in light of a recent ruling in a case involving Great Lakes wolves.

The request by three conservation groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe was lodged on Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Federal officials in December announced a review of their July 31 decision to lift protections for an estimated 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. The review was prompted by the Great Lakes wolf ruling, which indicated in part that more consideration needed to be given to a species' loss of historical territory.

Attorneys for the conservation groups and tribe say the grizzly review is being improperly used as an after-the-fact justification for lifting protections.

Published on 8 January 2018 | 9:30 pm

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