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

Montana’s Drought Still Extensive Despite Recent Rain

U.S. Drought Monitor map of Montana as of May 18, 2021 at 6 a.m. MDT
U.S. Drought Monitor
U.S. Drought Monitor map of Montana as of May 18, 2021 at 6 a.m. MDT

Montana fire officials are grateful for this weekend’s cool, and in some cases, wet weather, but they say much more of it is needed to mitigate the state’s deepening drought crisis.

John Monzie, Deputy Chief of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s Fire Protection Bureau, says the rain only helped part of the state.

“But unfortunately, this recent rain was mostly on the west side. We did get some scattered [showers] across the state, but eastern Montana — especially the northeastern corner — was in extreme drought prior to this little bit of precip and I doubt that’s going to be turned around very much.”

Over two inches of rain fell in portions of Flathead, Lake and Missoula counties.  

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s most recent map of Montana is awash in colors denoting extreme, severe and moderate drought, as well as abnormally dry conditions.

A portion of west-central Montana and a sliver along the state’s southern border are the only areas reporting no drought conditions.

April rainfall in the Rockies and farther west was the second lowest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Montana’s wettest months typically range from April through June.

Forecasters say eastern Montana’s gusty winds will persist through Monday evening, followed by scattered showers. 

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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