Snowpack below normal in SW Montana

Snowpack below normal in SW Montana

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle
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By Michael Wright Chronicle Staff Writer

Late December storms weren’t enough to make up for a slow start to the snow season, and many river basins around the state are showing below normal snowpacks to kick off the year.

That’s the finding of the latest snow survey report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which was released late last week. The report includes data on all the river basins around the state.

In southwestern Montana, the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin river basins had less than 80 percent of their normal snow-water equivalent for Jan. 1. The Gallatin River basin was listed at 78 percent of its normal snow-water equivalent for the year.

The report says precipitation in September and October gave the region a boost, including some snow in October. But warm weather late in the year’s 10th month melted low and middle elevation snow. High elevation snow stayed put.

Storms that rolled through the region in December added to the snowpack. But because it came so late, the report says, it wasn’t enough to bring the basin to its normal level for the first of the year.

The river basins with the least to show for the year’s snowfall so far are the lower Clark Fork and the Smith-Judith-Musselshell. Both show that the snow water equivalent for Jan. 1 was below 65 percent of normal.

River basins in northwestern Montana and south central and southeastern Montana recorded the best numbers in the state in this report. Snow-water equivalents in the Kootenai, Flathead, the Sun-Teton Marias and the St. Mary’s-Milk river basins are all above 93 percent of normal for the year.

The Yellowstone River basin, in the south central and southeastern part of the state, is also doing well. The upper Yellowstone is at 103 percent of average and the lower Yellowstone is at 113 percent of average.