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Western Montana in need of wet weather

Dry Conditions Missoula
Posted at 8:45 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 10:45:03-04

MISSOULA — Five of the last six months have been drier than average across Western Montana which puts even more importance on seeing springtime moisture, including an incoming winter storm.

No matter where you are in Western Montana, precipitation has been hard to come by in recent months. The result is a well-below normal snowpack in many of our higher elevations, and increasingly dry valleys.

“Starting basically in January up until now, you know we’re like 50-something percent of the normal for, you know, low elevation precip," National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless noted.

We’re now close to two-thirds of the way through May, which along with June, are our two wettest months of the year with little rain and snow to show. Nickless, says we need precipitation, and we need it soon.

“We’ve had some drought that’s kind of creeped into the area, some of the area up in northwest Montana -- especially the Kootenai Region, you know like Lincoln County, parts of Flathead and Sanders County -- I mean we can’t just have this dryness that we’ve had continue all the way through May and into June, we’ve got to start getting some precipitation.”

With long-range forecasts calling for a warmer and drier than normal summer, and wildfire season not far away, it really is the sooner, the better. With that in mind, there is some good news…a wet weather system is knocking on our door. “It’s going to bring in some really cool air and some rain, and then pretty good snow up in the mountains in some of the areas especially along the Continental Divide,” Nickless said.

Unfortunately, the previously mentioned Kootenai Region of northwest Montana is in the most need and looks to receive the least from this system. For now, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed that more wet weather systems will head our way in the weeks ahead before our typical summer-time high-pressure weather pattern settles in.

“We need to see those on a pretty regular basis as we go through May and into June," Nickless told MTN News.

Unfortunately, longer-range models are calling for a return to a drier weather pattern heading into next week, but we know Mother Nature can be finicky, and maybe we’ll see more wet weather systems in the weeks ahead.

On a positive note, the lack of snowpack means it's unlikely western Montana will see major flooding this spring.