February Storms Help Snowpack Levels Rebound in Montana

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE — After a dry start to the winter, recent storms have helped bring the snowpack across Montana up to nearly normal levels, government officials said.

The snowpack is now 95 percent of Montana’s 30-year-average, said Brian Domonkos, water supply specialist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman.

That’s a lot of ground gained since mid-January, when the state was at 76 percent of average, he told the Montana Standard.

“Ninety percent of average is pretty good, especially considering where we were not all the long ago,” Domonkos said.

The increased snowfall is not just good for skiers this winter, but it will aid ranchers who need irrigation water this spring and anglers counting on the mountain runoff to fill the state’s blue-ribbon streams.

The upper Clark Fork basin is just below average at 96 percent and the Bitterroot River basin is right at average.

Randy Schilling of the Maverick Mountain ski area said business this winter had been slower than normal. Then, a storm blew in last week.

“The snow is fantastic and we’ve been getting lots of it,” Shilling said from the ski area northwest of Dillon. “We just picked up 14, 15 inches on Wednesday — we have 92 inches of snowpack on the top of the mountain.”

Other river basins are still lagging. Among them are the Jefferson River basin at 84 percent, the Gallatin at 80 percent and the Madison at 78 percent of the average snowpack for this time of year.

The snowpack numbers were surprising to Chris Bradley, co-owner of The Stonefly Fly Shop in Butte. He said looking at the mountains around Butte it appears to be dry, but he often checks the data and is pleased there should be water for summer stream flows.

“I was a little more worried, but it seems like we’re doing OK,” he said.