Northwest Montana Snowpack Rises Above Average

By Beacon Staff

Statewide snowpack levels increased for the third month in a row in March, especially in Northwest Montana, according to snow survey data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Brian Domonkos, NRCS water supply specialist, said storm patterns favored the western and northern parts of the state with the Kootenai, Lower Clark Fork and Flathead river basins seeing substantial increases in snow water.

Snowpack levels in the Flathead River Basin are currently 106 percent of the average. This time last year the levels were 130 percent. The Kootenai is currently at 127 percent, 1 percent higher than last year.

Streamflow prospects across the state have increased in all basins except the Yellowstone and Milk river basins since last month. Looking at average river basin streamflow forecasts between April 1 through July 31, the Flathead is at 111 percent. Last year it was 137 percent. The Kootenai is expected to be 114 percent above average.

Most of Montana saw slightly above average snowfall for the month, helping the basins around the state remain at or slightly above average. Southwest Montana continues to recover from the dry weather and below average snowfall experienced through Jan. 1.

Montana typically has accumulated 95 percent of its seasonal snow cover by April 1, with most basins reaching average maximum snow water equivalent around mid-April. Above average precipitation during future months would likely increase runoff amounts.

Some basins in Montana continue to be below average. The Milk River Basin continued to be considerably low through the month of March, with little improvement from the storms that hit the rest of the state. The Wind, Big Horn, Powder, Tongue and Lower Yellowstone river basins in Wyoming have made the transition to a spring snowpack with the unseasonably warm temperatures, dropping significantly from the high percentages of average on March 1.

“With the possibility of a wet April like we experienced last year, we will continue to monitor any accumulations or warm temperatures in the mountains, as the next month’s weather will help dictate timing and volumes of stream flows across the state,” Domonkos said in a prepared statement.

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