February Snowfall Improves Snowpack and Streamflow Forecast for Spring
February snowfall has improved the possibility that streams and rivers in western Montana will have more normal flows as spring approaches.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has released snow pack data for the month of February, according to Bozeman-based Water Supply Specialist Lucas Zikiewicz, who provided moisture totals for the Missoula and Bitterroot areas.
"We saw above normal snowfall for the month of February pretty much across the northwest," Zukiewicz said. "A couple of big storms came through at the beginning of the month and really improved our basin totals which if we go back to February 1st were below normal, but we've seen a 15 to 20 percent improvement in our snow pack totals for March 1st, so the snow has really come around for us."
Zukiewicz said rivers and streams should appear closer to normal than in years past as spring emerges.
"Our snow melt season really gets underway by mid to late April and generally, we'll see our peak by then, as well," he said. "So, in the next month and a half we hope to keep getting the snow, and then we'll turn the corner a little bit and then we'll get into the melt phase and start to see those rivers come up. The current stream flow forecasts are coming in right at normal, especially in the Upper Clark Fork area there in Missoula. In addition to the precipitation we had earlier in the fall has kept our stream flow forecast looking near to to even slightly above average for this April through July period."
Other areas received record snowfall, including Glacier National Park with 12.5 inches of snow water, well above the 5.3 inches for February.