Despite the warm, relatively dry winter and the early spring that western Montana has experienced, the National Weather Service says there is plenty of snow pack in area mountains.

Hydrologist Ray Nickless says it’s been a relatively surprising season.

“We’ve actually had pretty average precipitation, and the temperatures have been a little above average from October through March, but precipitation-wise we’ve been doing pretty well,” Nickless said. “There’s a few spots that haven’t been doing very well like over on Lookout Pass along the Montana and Idaho border. Most other locations, the Bitterroots, the Clark Fork, the Flathead and the Kootenai, all are in the average range.”

Nickless said the warm weather has been causing some of the mountain snow pack to melt, but that moisture has been replaced by more snow in the higher elevations.

He said the severity of the upcoming fire season all depends on the weather.

“When we get into the fire season in that July time-frame, if we get a few weeks of hot, dry weather, boom, we’re in the fire season,” he said. “The forecast for April is for warmer weather, so the snow could be melting, and we don’t have any reading of how much rain could be in the forecast.”

Nickless said the El Nino pattern that has been dominating the weather will be ending, giving way to a possible La Nina winter.

“If that takes place, that would be good news for our mountain snow pack, however, it’s a little too soon to start forecasting the coming winter, so we could be either neutral, or La Nina,” said Nickless.