Odd Weather Pattern Has Changed Snowpack Levels
First, there was almost no snow falling this winter in western Montana. Then in February, the Bitterroot Valley was among areas that had over two feet of snow in just a few days. The temperatures were also unusual for the season, with the snow staying around for weeks. However, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service noted that what was going to be a below average snow year jumped back up to near normal. Lucas Zuciewicz of the NRCS said that the snowpack was at record-low levels at the beginning of March. However, as of April 1st, the Bitterroot Valley's snowpack was about 98 percent of normal. which is still about 73 percent below last year.
The precipitation totals were up and down, too. After the huge snowfall, the precipitation totals dropped off with only 43 percent of normal at the end of March. Zuciewicz expects more mountain snowfall in April, which will help determine the runoff and streamflow forecasts for the rest of the year. Right now, the streamflow forecasts are below normal for northern Montana and near normal for the southern part of the state, including the Bitterroot Valley.