Happy Summer! Surprise Snowstorm Clobbers Rockies

Glacier National Park is notorious for unpredictable weather. (Image credit: Glacier National Park)

The summer solstice is right around the corner, but winter isn't going down without a fight this year: A bizarre June snowstorm hit Glacier National Park in Montana and parts of Utah and Idaho this week, leaving many residents and visitors in the northern Rockies wondering what season it is.

Glacier National Park saw almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain and more than a foot (0.3 meters) of snow, according to the National Weather Service. [See photos of the surprise snowstorm]

"Weather in northwest Montana and weather in Glacier [National Park] can be so variable, but it's always somewhat exciting, somewhat "wow," somewhat challenging to get this kind of weather this time of year," Denise Germann, a spokeswoman for Glacier National Park, told ABC Montana.

Now, as the snow melts and rivers spill over their banks, the area is at risk for flooding.

Yesterday (June 18), the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the northern Rocky Mountains and a winter storm warning for elevations above 6,500 feet (1,980 m). Park officials were on high alert and were prepared to issue an evacuation. Flooding in some areas has already forced the park to close campgrounds and paths.

Like the icebergs still lingering in Lake Superior, the unexpected snowstorm is a reminder of the year's harsh winter. The park is a popular summer destination for tourists, and those visiting the park were forced to seek shelter in lodges while snow plows swept the area and began clearing the snowpack.

The surprise storm has slowed down the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile (80 kilometers) drive that takes visitors through the park and around the area's mountainsides. The attraction is one of the park's biggest tourist draws, but the trail is currently closed, with no estimation of when the upper sections will be cleared of snow, park officials said.

Forecasters predict around 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) of additional rain and 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm) of additional snow in the mountains. The weather is expected to clear up over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

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Kelly Dickerson
Staff Writer
Kelly Dickerson is a staff writer for Live Science and Space.com. She regularly writes about physics, astronomy and environmental issues, as well as general science topics. Kelly is working on a Master of Arts degree at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, and has a Bachelor of Science degree and Bachelor of Arts degree from Berry College. Kelly was a competitive swimmer for 13 years, and dabbles in skimboarding and long-distance running.