Loud claps of thunder, bright lightning and sudden downpours of rain and pea-sized hail (see photo) accompanied a strong line of storms that passed through the Bitterroot Valley about mid-day Thursday, May 31. No significant damage was reported immediately after the main storm front passed, but unsettled weather with more thunder was forecast until Friday morning.

The rain soaked the ground and immediately the National Weather Service in Missoula issued a flood warning for the lower Bitterroot River into Missoula, an area that has been overwhelmed by water already this year. Local creeks and streams saw immediate water level increases as the storm passed through. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for areas east of the Bitterroot - Butte, Dillon and Bozeman areas were included.

Generally the Bitterroot River level has been dropping, with a slight rise Thursday afternoon, but trending lower through the weekend. At about 3 p.m. the Bell Crossing USGS gauge was at 9.5 feet (flood stage is 11 feet) and the Conner gauge was 6.34 feet (7.5 feet is flood stsge). Lowland flooding is still occurring, however. And, when you get up into the mountains, you'll be able to have a snowball fight. Still plenty of snow in the higher elevations.

storm over Hamilton May 31. (Mike Daniels, Townsquare Media)
Storm in Blodgett Canyon in black-and-white. (Steve Fullerton, Townsquare Media)