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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Wet Thunderstorms Expected To Hinder Western Wildfires

National Weather Service
Saturday's severe weather outlook

Wet thunderstorms expected to sweep western Montana through the weekend could provide wildland firefighters their best reprieve of the season yet.

That includes those attacking the Horsefly Fire east of Lincoln, the Beeskove Fire east of Missoula, and the Snow Creek Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Jennifer Kitsmiller with the National Weather Service says this weekend’s subtropical storms are abnormal this time of year.

“It’s something that might only occur only every 5 or 10 years or so. The cooler temperatures and the moisture moving in should help things out quite a bit,” she says.

Storms are expected to start rolling in this afternoon, then peak on Saturday all over western Montana. The Weather Service says they could produce up to half-an-inch of rain in an hour.

Though the precipitation should be a benefit, Kitsmiller says burned areas are also at risk to flash flood. Charred soil can’t absorb much moisture, which can lead to debris flows and mudslides.

Flooding also threatens urban areas full of concrete. Kitsmiller outlined a bubble of possibly severe Saturday weather centered west of Missoula, and extending farther into Idaho and east toward Helena.

“We are concerned that some of the storms on Saturday could get kind of strong,” she says.

There’s potential for flooding, hail and gusty winds of 50 MPH. The Weather Service says trees and power lines could fall.

On the plus side, Kitsmiller says wildfire-sparking dry thunderstorms aren’t expected through the rest of the week.

The storms are predicted to clear out by Monday morning.

Kevin is a UM Journalism graduate student and reporter for MTPR.
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