MISSOULA — It’s was a beautiful and warm day, and we expect to see the warmest temperatures we’ve seen in months on Wednesday and that means the busy season has started for one local hydrologist.
A quick surge of warmer temperatures has National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless keeping a close eye in area river levels, especially on the Clark Fork in Missoula.
“With the warm temperatures we’re expecting today and tomorrow we expect rivers are going to get up close to flood stage on the Clark Fork in Missoula, you know, right now right around that flood stage, maybe a little above it this weekend as we go into Friday and Saturday.”
The Orchard Homes area of Missoula, which has always been susceptible to high water during the spring months, is even more so now thanks to the shifting of sediment caused by 2018 flood.
The good news is we’ll cool off beginning Thursday which should bring water levels down on all rivers and streams. Beyond that, Nickless says it’ll continue to be a wait-and-see scenario as the spring progresses.
He says with snowpack slightly above normal the Bitterroot River will be monitored closely as we head deeper into spring, “We expect that we could be close to flood stage there, but that probably won’t be until the end of May.”
He’ll be watching the Flathead Drainage, too, “we expect that one to be getting up there and, you know, that won’t be until the latter part of May also.”
There’s still plenty of snow in the highest elevations and Nickless says as long as we don’t have any huge warmups or big rainfalls, that should set us up very well for the summer,
“You know, having the snow melt be delayed is going to be real nice for, you know, water supply for irrigation this summer, plus the stream flows in the rivers. For fisheries that will be great," Nickless told MTN News.
May and early June can bring with it big fluctuations in temperatures, and is our wettest time of the year, but if we can stay close to seasonal averages, this should be a relatively quiet flood season.
Nicklesssays another area of flood concern, which sees flooding almost every year, is along theYaak River in northwest Montana.