Northwest Montana Gets Record Rain, But Avoids Flood Stage

By Beacon Staff

A month of heavy rain changes everything.

In the spring, there were growing worries about drought. Now people are talking about floods. Portions of Southwest, Central and Eastern Montana were on flood watch last week, but the Flathead River Basin appears to be in good shape.

Northwest Montana’s main rivers, said Peter Felsch of the National Weather Service in Missoula, were expected to crest on June 18 – below flood stage – and then taper off. Even if continued rain over the weekend bumps up water levels, the rises were expected to be minor, Felsch said.

But Felsch said small streams, which react more immediately to rainstorms, could still approach flood stages in some areas.

“Most of the rivers are obviously running high, but we’re not expecting them to reach flood stage,” Felsch said. “The biggest concern is smaller streams.”

June’s soggy conditions lifted moisture levels and stream flows in Montana from well below average in the spring to about normal now. Felsch said rainfall recorded at Glacier Park International Airport beginning on October 1 of last year was 12.71 inches as of midnight on June 18. Normal is 12.41 inches.

As of June 18, there were 2.69 inches of rainfall recorded at the airport for the month of June, almost double the normal amount – 1.36 inches – for that time period. The 24-hour rainfall measurement for June 17 was the highest ever at 1.13 inches, Felsch said, shattering the previous record of .67 inches, set in 1900.

The increased moisture will likely delay any possible fire season, Felsch said.

“Everything is so moist,” Felsch said. “It will prolong fuels from curing and drying out. If we’re going to have a fire season this year it’s going to be delayed or not until the latter part of August or September.”

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