photo courtesy of NWS
Heavy Snow

The National Weather Service is reporting that Missoula has just finished up the wettest winter since 1996.

Chief Hydrologist Ray Nickless said the moisture received through rain and snow is significantly higher than average.

"The amount of water we've had in here in Missoula since October of last year is 9.36 inches of precipitation, that's both snow and rain in that time frame, Nickless said. "That's how much water was in the snow. Normally in that time frame we would have 4.93 inches, so we're almost double the amount of precipitation we would ordinarily have between October 1st of last year through now."

Nickless said the extra moisture is a good omen for the rivers and streams around western Montana for the upcoming summer.

"That's really good news for the summer coming up," he said. "We're going to have good, strong stream flows throughout the summer. The thing we're going to have to watch out for is flooding as we go through the spring months. Right now, as we speak, we're worried about flooding in northwest Montana, especially along the Montana - Idaho border, because that area is going to experience another shot of rainfall as we go into Friday night through Saturday."

Nickless said river levels in the Bitterroot are running higher than normal at the present time.

"Snow pack wise, the Bitterroot River basin is at 114 percent of average due to the higher and lower elevation snows," he said. "A lot of the rivers here in western Montana are at highs this time of year. As we go into the long term, we won't be seeing those high levels on the Clark Fork, The Bitterroot and the Blackfoot, until late May or early June."

The National Weather Service is warning that low elevation snow combined with warm temperatures and rain is making flooding likely for portions of northwest and west-central Montana this weekend, mainly in Lincoln, Mineral, and Sanders Counties.

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