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Wet weather takes bite out of Western Montana deficit

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 17:30:27-04

MISSOULA — Western Montana's drought concerns just one week ago have improved significantly as two systems brought some much-needed rain and snow to the region.

As of last Tuesday, the valleys of western Montana had seen roughly 50%-to-60% of its average yearly rain total, which was cause for concern for National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless.

“I mean we can’t just have this dryness we’ve had continue all the way through May and into June, we’ve got to start getting some precipitation," Nickless said.

And have we ever. The five-plus days that have followed have brought a much more manageable yearly rain deficit to the valleys.

In fact, thanks to Kalispell and Missoula receiving over an inch of rain since Sunday, both towns now have a surplus for the month of May.

Since the beginning of the year, the valleys are now running at about 75%-to-80% of average, which is a big improvement from this time last week.

Towns located closer to the divide like Columbia Falls, Bigfork, and Seeley Lake all received between 1½" and 2½" of rain.

It’s not just the valleys that have benefitted as mountain snowpack has seen a dramatic increase in most areas.

The Flathead and Upper Clark Fork basins were the big winners, with both now at to slightly above normal.

While there was an increase in all basins the one in most need, the Kootenai Basin, received the least from this system and is still in need.

The good news is, chances for additional precipitation in the form of showers remain for the better part of the week, and June is traditionally one of our two wettest months.

On the flip side, long-range models are calling for warmer and drier weather trending for Memorial Day weekend and the following week.

What we do know is that, with a forecast calling for a warmer and drier than average summer, we’ll need to continue to see rain opportunities in the weeks ahead to help hold off wildfires as long as possible.

The Bitterroot Valley did not receive as much rain as other areas of Western Montana, but they still averaged between a ½" and 1" this past weekend.