Low Stream Flows on Bitterroot and Other Rivers Could Lead to Extreme Drought
This week Missoula County and Ravalli County both went into "drought alert" status. According to Hydrologist Ray Nickless from the National Weather Service, the main reason for the alert were low stream flows on the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers.
"What snow pack we had melted off so early," Nickless said, looking at the Bitterroot River levels at the Conner gauge. "The month of April was the hottest month we've ever recorded, it just melted so much snow pack so quickly. The Bitterroot is running about 423 cubic feet per second and normally it would be running closer to 700 cubic feet per second."
Nickless says that hot days could bring severe drought to the region before the end of summer.
He said, "Days haven't been extremely hot recently. We've been about normal with our temperatures, so that has been helping a little bit as far as not making the situation worse. If we get into a situation where we are getting lots of 90 degree temperatures and a lack of any kind of moisture, then we could go into extreme drought, but it would probably be more like the middle of August or so."
Even though stream flows are low, Nickless says they are higher than at the same time last year.