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

April brought a lot of precipitation, but central Montana is still lacking

Montana precipitation data for April and May from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
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Montana precipitation data for April and May from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman.

April brought the most precipitation of any month of the year to Montana. The cool, wet spring improved snowpack and delayed the spring runoff, but this encouraging outlook comes with a caveat.

Montana’s snowpack conditions looked bleak April 1. Early season expectations of a cold, snowy winter never materialized. Mountain snowpack was subpar, and time was running out to make up the difference.

April marked the start of a major change in the weather pattern, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman. Some of the largest mountain precipitation totals set 40-year records in southwest Montana and northern Wyoming.

Mountain precipitation totals were lowest in parts of central Montana, the Flathead Lake area, and the Upper Clark Fork region, where they ranged from 2-5 inches last month. Compared to normal, that's about 70%-100% for those areas.

Overall, the cool wet conditions improved snowpack and pushed spring runoff into June and July.

Experts caution, however, that the snowpack deficit earlier this spring east of the Continental Divide, combined with recent cooler weather, led to below normal stream flows. That means streams may be full into July, but the overall volume of water for the spring runoff season might still be closer to below normal.

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