MISSOULA — It's not often that Western Montana rivers are "ice free" at New Year's, but that's been the case this year with a stretch of mild weather.
However, that's already starting to change, creating conditions where people should be extremely cautious heading into the coming week.
The off and on cold weather this past fall and winter has kept most of our rivers, streams and lakes relatively ice free.
In fact, National Weather Service hydrologist Ray Nickless says we actually had more ice at the start of October following that first autumn cold snap.
That started to change on Friday with rivers like the Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Flathead starting to show more ice formation, with mid-channel flows, and ice building along the shorelines.
Nickless says we're still days away from any ice jamming. Even on the Salmon River, where there's been more snow, channels are clear.
He told MTN News it will take several days of sub-zero weather to really start ice buildup. However, because if the extended mild weather, people should use the utmost caution.
Nickless says generally, none of our lakes and ponds have enough ice to support people.