Despite severe storms in other parts of the country, it looks like Old Man Winter will continue to stay away from north-central Montana, at least for the immediate future.
The National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com and The Weather Channel all are forecasting highs in the 30s and 40s for the next week, with no snow in the forecast.
Weather prognosticaters last fall — and in to at least December — expected weather patterns in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and other areas to bring a significant amount of snow and colder-than-normal temperatures to Montana.
Instead, December was much warmer than normal, with very little snow. That has continued through much of January and is expected, in north-central Montana, to continue through the end of next week.
While the weather is a boon for people who dread the cold and snow of Montana winters, it could lead to problems down the road.
Hill County Fire Warden Joe Parenteau said Wednesday that the lack of moisture could lead to more wildland fires.
“This year, it’s starting to look like we could have big fire season if we don’t get spring rains, ” he said, adding that a lot could happen to change that.
Some improvement already has occurred. A storm dropped some snow in the mountains of Montana, helping with snowpack. While many river systems still are below the normal level of snowpack, including the headwaters of the Missouri, the level of snowpack is higher for most than it was several weeks ago.
The snowpack listed for the St. Mary and Milk River basins as of Thursday was listed at 89 percent of normal, although that includes snowpack in the Rocky Mountains. The snowpack from Rocky Boy is listed at 47 percent of normal.
The next few months generally are the period with the greatest amount of snowpack built up.
The amount of snow through the next few months still is to be seen, as is the amount of spring and early summer precipitation, which could have major impacts on the amount of water and the condition of agricultural operations over the next year.