By Robert Lucke
This mild winter might be great for keeping the car running and the heat bills down, but for spring moisture, so far it hasn't produced much.
The Havre NCRS office measures snow levels and precipitation amounts throughout the year in several Bear Paw locations. Measurements start from October first which is the beginning of a new water season.
At the Sucker Creek measuring station, the cumulative total up to Feb. 1, was 2.36 inches of precipitation with an average snow depth of two inches.
The Taylor Road which measures the head waters of Big Box Elder Creek. That measurement of moisture was 2.91 inches of moisture since Oct. 1.
Little Box Elder Creek measurement was 4.09 inches of moisture. There is at that point an average of 21.5 inches of snow.
The Bear Paw Ski area has a precipitation total of 3.19 inches.
At the Rocky Boy Snotel station measuring from Feb. 3, to Feb. 9, the season accumulation of precipitation is 5.5 inches. During that period of time the maximum daily temperature at the site was 48.9. Minimum for that time period was 7.3.
Snowpack all over Montana has been below average.
According to Roy Kaiser, NRCS water supply specialist, Feb. 1, Montana snow water contents were 88 percent of average and 74 percent of last year. West of the Continental Divide, snowpack was 81 percent of average and 70 percent of last year. East of the Continental Divide, snowpack was 81 percent of average and 70 percent of last year. Snowpack extremes were the highest in the Kootenai mainstem at 100 percent of average and the lowest reporting in the Bear Paw Mountains at 64 percent of average. Several sites within the Wind River and Bighorn River Basins in Wyoming (headwaters of the Bighorn River) are tied or have set new record low snow water content readings.
"With the low snowfall accumulations, streamflows around Montana are forecast to average between 65 and 95 percent," stated Kaiser. "Should the current weather pattern continue, streams that are unregulated could experience surface water shortages. Areas that experienced those type of shortages last year need to closely monitor this years streamflow forecasts."
In this area the Milk River basin is 67 percent of average and 55 percent of last year. The St. Mary is 85 percent of average and 65 percent of last year. The Milk and St. Mary combined are 78 percent of average and 61 percent of last year.
Going into the winter, many area reservoirs were far below capacity. As of Oct. 31, Lake Sherburne was four percent of capacity, Fresno was 39 percent of capacity, Beaver Creek was 80 percent of capacity and Nelson reservoir was 61 percent of capacity.