MISSOULA – The sound of melting snow rushing into rivers and creeks is a familiar spring sound in western Montana.
Thanks to Mother Nature, that rush is about to turn into a roar.
“The warm temperatures we’re going to be having here, especially Thursday and Friday this week, is going to continue to get some of that low elevation snow melting," said NWS Hydrologist Ray Nickless. "So we’re seeing right now the rises in the river and that will continue.”
This week’s warmth is only the first of a two-punch combination that is cause for concern, according to Nickless. The latest forecast model runs have greatly enhanced a wet weather system that is expected to move through this weekend.
“We’re looking at this weather system that’s coming through giving us like an inch, or maybe even up to two inches in some spots.”
The impacts will be felt across the board, from north to south affecting both rivers and streams.
“We’re going to see some significant rises on the Bitterroot River and the Clark Fork River. Right now we’re not expecting those to flood, but some of the smaller creeks that feed into some of those rivers could be an issue, especially in the Blackfoot Drainage where some of the streams are already at bank full,” Nickless said.
In northwest Montana, the Yaak and Fisher rivers are expected to overflow. Nickless says this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is expected down the road.
In fact, our wet system expected this weekend will most likely bring more snow to the highest elevations.
“There’s so much snow up there in the mid to higher elevations, we’re still not seeing the big melt. That’s still to come, so this is just kind of a primer, and kind of a wakeup call.”
Nickless adds that he believes rivers and creeks will run continually high leading up to the bigger snow melt expected in May and June.