Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Precipitation has continued to fall in north-central Montana, turning around the extremely dry weather the area was experiencing through most of the spring and causing troubles in some areas. While the reporting station in Havre showed the area received about .8 inches of rain Tuesday through this morning, The National Weather Service in Great Falls this morning was working to deal with the results of about 7 inches of snow that fell last night. Meteorologist Gina Loss said her office was trying to deal with power outages and loss of phone service, including in the Weather Service office. The rain that has fallen has also slowed down projects including the rebuilding of U.S. Highway 2 where it runs through Havre as First Street, but many in the region are happy with the extreme turnaround in weather in north-central Montana. “The farmers are happy,” said Lochiel Edwards, who farms near Big Sandy. The precipitation has also changed the outlook of the governor’s Drought Advisory Committee. Jesse Aber of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said that during a meeting of the task force Tuesday the members recommended upgrading the listings of many areas of the state to improved conditions, including upgrading many counties in north-central Montana two steps from a severe drought category of severely dry to slightly dry. “All those (areas) go right by moderately dry right to slightly dry,” Aber said. The rain average the last month has improved the situation throughout the state. What was looking like a severely dry year, causing many concerns for farmers and ranchers, has turned around. The turnaround is obvious in the Havre area. For the first time this spring, the report shows above-average precipitation in all categories. This morning, the Weather Service reported the Havre reporting station at the Havre City- County Airport showed 2.37 inches of rain for the month. That puts Havre at 1.67 inches above normal for the month, 1.32 inches above normal for the year, and .27 inches above normal for the water year, listed from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. On May 1, Havre was 1.28 inches below normal for the year and 2.33 inches below normal for the water year. The National Weather Service shows the rainy weather is expected to continue. Loss, also a member of the Drought Advisory Committee, said the six- to 10-day forecast includes predictions of below-normal temperatures and a fair chance of above-average precipitation. Street work delays Sam Weyers, project manager Nelcon Inc. said the rain has slowed Things down on First Street. The workers have been trying to pour concrete to build the new surface on the west end of the project. “It’s rained 16 of the last 21 days,” Weyers said. “It really has slowed us down a lot.” He said workers are doing what they can, pouring some concrete by hand and doing other work on the project, and he hopes to get back to the major focus next Monday. “We’ll go back to 12- to 14-hour-days seven days a week and make up what time we can,” Weyers said. Helping the ag industry Agricultural producers are seeing the opposite effect from that of construction workers. Wild hay is starting to come back, livestock reservoirs are refilling and the wheat crops seem to be improving. “There’s, of course, some real challenges out there,” Edwards said. “The real problem we have with the winter wheat is there was considerable dryness before the rain event.” Edwards said there are some very thin stands of winter wheat, along with some good stands. West of Big Sandy, he said, most of the spring wheat planted was put in to replace areas originally planted to winter wheat. The winter wheat could still produce a decent yield, Edwards said. “(It) will never be a bumper crop, but there are some good stands, so it’s a mixed bag,” he said. Jon Stoner, who farms north of Havre, had similar comments. “For the most part the spring wheat looks really good, excellent,” he said. “The winter wheat is probably just good.” Ede Britmeier of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Blaine County said the precipitation has helped there as well, improving the outlook for grain, planted hay crops and wild grass “the grass, we were really hurting there before,” she said. It has also helped some livestock growers with their water supply reservoirs in some areas, although not all, are filling back up, she said. Mitigating drought Aber said the precipitation has helped the drought situation by leaps and bounds he said there is a low to moderate chance of drought in most places in the state, up from many areas being in severe drought a month ago. He said people can access the information available to the Drought Advisory Committee online, at drought.mt.gov. The cooler weather has improved almost all categories. The surface water supply is expected to be good “We haven’t seen a surface supply map look this good in years,” Aber said and in some areas the snow-pack is actually increasing, which should help the supply to rivers and lakes this summer. While the weather later this summer could still cause problems, Aber said the situation is improving and the weather forecasts indicate it should continue at least for the short term. “This year is just rolling,” he said.