Although conditions are drying here as well, the region around Havre continues to be one of the better locations in Montana for avoiding the dryness spreading throughout the state.
During a meeting of the Governor’s Drought Advisory Committee in Helena Thursday, the group said dry conditions are widening, although rain that has fallen in the last few weeks has helped slow down the spread.
“The expected trend is for the drought in Montana to persist or intensify through the end of October, ” Jesse Aber of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said during his presentation at the meeting.
Aber said the changes from June to this month include that the southeastern part of the state continues to worsen, the southwest continues to be a problem and the west side of the state held its own, while conditions in counties on the Hi-Line are starting to worsen.
The proposed map listing conditions in the state expands “Slightly Dry” and “Moderately Dry” — which includes a drought alert — across the entire southern part of Montana east of the Continental Divide and north along the Rocky Mountains and Rocky Mountain Front into Toole and Pondera counties.
It also upgrades Lewis and Clark County from “Slightly Dry” to “Moderately Dry. ”
On the Hi-Line, Toole and Liberty counties have downgraded from “Slightly Moist” to “Near Normal. ”
Hill County continues to be listed, along with Chouteau, Blaine, Phillips, Valley and Daniels counties, as “Slightly Moist. ”
But the drying process is continuing — Scott Oviatt of the U. S.D. A. Natural Resources Conservation Service said the soil moisture is depleting throughout the state, including in Hill County.
“We just haven’t had any precipitation, ” he said.
Oviatt said the surface water supply in streams and rivers remains fairly good, especially west of the Divide, although the levels are dropping with more hitting near normal amounts.
The drop in soil moisture could have implications into next year’s water supply, he added.
Dave Bernhardt of National Weather Service said the recent weather conditions have been hotter and drier than normal, although the recent thunderstorms have brought moisture to some areas.
Havre has received nearly an inch-and-a-quarter of precipitation in the last week, with potentially severe thunderstorms again in today’s forecast from Glacier National Park through Havre.
Bernhardt said the conditions across the state have varied greatly. Kalispell recorded its wettest June on record, while Miles City reported its third-driest.
Wyoming recorded its record-driest month, weather which also impacted the southern parts of Montana, he said.
Alyssa Peck of the U. S.D. A. National Agricultural Statistic Service said harvests of many types of crops still are expected to be high in acres and yields, although the crop conditions are dropping rapidly.
She said, statewide, the topsoil moisture dropped from 10 percent surplus, 62 percent adequate, 22 percent short and 6 percent very short last week to this week’s report: 8 percent surplus, 61 percent adequate, 23 percent short and 8 percent very short.
That compares with last year’s report for this week with 60 percent surplus, 40 percent adequate and none reported short or very short.
The subsoil report is similar. Last week the ratings were 8 percent surplus, 62 percent adequate, 20 percent short and 10 percent very short, with this week’s 8 percent surplus, 59 percent adequate, 22 percent short and 11 percent very short.
Last year’s subsoil report for this week was 50 percent surplus and 50 percent adequate, with none in short or very short status.
Berhnardt said that the long-range forecast for late fall through the winter essentially is for equal chances for above normal, below normal or normal temperatures and precipitation, with a slightly better chance for warmer temperatures through part of the period.
“It’s not much of a story to tell for Montana, ” he said.
Online: state drought monitor