By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A record-setting rain is soaking into the ground and raising farmers' hopes.
Havre on Sunday reported the highest one-day precipitation for May 23 in its history, with 0.99 of an inch recorded.
"It's been a gold drop from heaven, I guess, for all the farmers and ranchers," said Doug Erhard, who farms southwest of Havre. "It was desperately needed. We were in real dire straits from the drought."
Erhard, who is raising winter wheat, lost his entire crop last year to a hailstorm.
As of May 10, Havre had recorded no precipitation for the month. After a two-day snowstorm that week, a half-inch was recorded.
As a result of rainfall that began on Tuesday and continued through much of the week and weekend, Havre now has 3.08 inches for the month, the ninth-wettest record for the period and the wettest since 1986, when Havre had 4.28 inches by May 23, according to the National Weather Service.
Gina Loss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls, said the heaviest rainfall was in north-central and northeastern Montana, with south-central Montana and parts of the state west of the Continental Divide probably getting the least.
Lima in southwest Montana received 1.14 inches from Friday through Sunday, National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Dittmann said, while Bozeman received 1.16 inches.
Fort Benton received 2.22 inches in the same period and Chinook had 2.10 inches. Havre had 2.24 inches.
The storm isn't over yet, with much of the state still getting rain through Tuesday night as the storm moves across Montana toward the Dakotas and Canada.
Most areas are getting some much needed precipitation, Loss said.
"It's covering a lot of the state," she said.
The forecast calls for the precipitation to taper off to mostly afternoon showers and thundershowers later in the week, but another system is expected to move into the area by the weekend, possibly bringing more precipitation.
The rain has been steady but not heavy enough to cause flooding, including in areas prone to flooding like the intersection of First Street and 14th Avenue in Havre.
"It's been a slow enough rain that most of it, as far as I know, has gone into the ground," Havre public works director Dave Peterson said.
Hill County disaster and emergency services coordinator Ron Knutson said he hasn't received any reports of flooding or damage.
The weather, which included snowfall Sunday night, has turned some roads to mud and snowed in some people in the Bear Paws Mountains.
Hill County Clerk of Court Dena Tippets said a jury pool lost a couple of prospective jurors this morning because of the weather. Most of the prospective jurors were able to make it to town, she added.
"They made a great effort despite the weather," Tippets said. "Initially it looked like we might lose quite a few but most of them made it in."
Erhard said the rain is soaking into the fields and might result in a good harvest, which he has been waiting for since the drought began six or seven years ago.
"We're crossing our fingers," he said.
The warm, dry weather in March and April had many farmers worried. State and federal officials also warned that the snowpack was melting much faster than normal, possibly leading to extremely low reservoir levels and dry soil conditions.
Dittmann said the storms in the last few weeks will help, but more precipitation is needed. Long, steady rains like the state has had can help fill streams and rivers, and the recent rain and snow have raised the levels of some of the larger rivers in southwestern Montana.
"Does this mean the drought is over? Of course not," Dittmann said. "This is what we're supposed to get in April and May. We just need to keep getting (these storms.)"