Snow Levels Below Average in Western Montana
An ever-changing weather pattern is playing havoc on snow levels in the mountains of Montana. The February Snowpack Report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman showed below average snow totals for every drainage in the state, including western Montana and the Bitterroot.
USDA water supply specialist Lucas Zukiewics reported the precipitation was below normal for the month of January which led directly to lower snow levels. Only the St. Mary River drainage was normal as of February 1. All others were below normal.
Looking at our area, the Bitterroot drainage had 83 percent of average snowpack which is down 11 percent from January. The Upper and Lower Clark Fork numbers were about 78 percent of normal, again down 11 percent from January.
Zukiewics said the October snowfall was well above average, but since then the numbers have not been as good. "You can only rely on early season totals for so long," he said in a news release. "If you experience two months of below normal snowfall during the "bread and butter" snow months, like we just have, those surpluses aren't going to stand up for long."
The NRCS is concerned about water supply through the year, which is dependent on good snowfall in the winter. Looking at future runoff for the rivers affecting recreation and and irrigation needs, he estimated 120-130 percent of normal snowfall is needed in the next weeks.
Recent snowfall will help, and Zukiewicz remembered 2019's huge dump of snow in what they called "Februburied." From March to May, additional measurements will be added to the automated Snotel reports for a better forecast of water supply this year in Montana.