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Winter Season Snowpack Shows Cause for Concern in Coming Months

2011 Flood
Photo courtesy of Missoula County

Montana was very fortunate in how much snow the state received as a whole this past winter. National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless said even though Montana received above average snowpack numbers, only some areas are call for concern when it comes to flooding:

“Our snowpack has just been kind of holding on as we’ve gone through the month of April,” Nickless said. “We’ve had a few snowstorms and, you know, it ‘s reminding me of 2011 where we had the snowpack holding on late and getting additional snowstorms on top of it as we go into the latter part of the season. There’s just a lot of water sitting up there, especially in the high elevations. Even in the lower elevations there’s areas that are still holding onto their snowpack.”

The rivers Nickless is referring to include the Bitterroot River and the Clark Fork River.

“There’s a lot of water in the snowpack up in the Blackfoot region and in the upper headwaters of the Clark Fork River,” Nickless said. “When that all melts, it’s going to end up somewhere, and right here in Missoula is the spot where most of that water will bring the river rises up the greatest. We also have some concern in the upper Clark Fork River Basin with some smaller streams that enter the Clark Fork River that flooded in 2011.”

Nickless said May and June are peak months for rainfall in the valley and it wouldn’t take much for flooding to become a problem.

Nickless added that rivers are already flowing above normal. The Clark Fork River, for example is 161% above normal flow for this time of year.

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