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Weather Wise: Drought Status

Weather Wise: Drought Status
Posted at 10:10 AM, Feb 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-06 12:10:51-05

Fall and winter have been noticeably dry, with legitimate concerns about drought and snowpack. This weekend's storm was a record breaker for precipitation in parts of the state, giving a nice shot in the arm to Montana.

Fall of 2023 and winter so far across Montana have been dry and mild. Snowpack in the mountains is visibly well below normal. Drought conditions of D-0 and D-1 have worsened through the last few months, especially in the mountains.

As of February 5, Montana's snowpack is meager to say the least. The Sun, Teton and Marias water basin, along the Rocky Mountain Front, is the worst with only 42% of normal snow water equivalent. Areas like the Helena Valley, Smith, Judith, Musselshell, Gallatin, and Upper Clark Fork are slightly above half of normal. Northwest Montana, doing the best, is still well below normal.

This is not just a Montana problem. Much of the west has been dry, certainly drier than what was expected with El Nino. However, conditions have slowly been improving.

This past weekend's storm was exactly what Montana needed. The storm produced as much as an inch of liquid equivalent on the Rocky Mountain Front. Record moisture fell in places like Great Falls, Cut Bank, Lewistown and Havre. Helena received it's average precipitation for the entire month of February in just two days.

We are nowhere near being out of the woods yet and still have significant ground to make up to relieve some concerns about wildfires and low water come this summer. But more snow is in the forecast and temperatures will stay cooler over the next few weeks.