By Tim Leeds
Much of the state received rain from widespread thunderstorms over the last 24 hours, with 1.33 inches of rain and marble-sized hail reported in Havre. The storm also caused several fires.
"We've actually had reports of 1.45 and 1.48 inches fairly close to (Havre)," said Gina Loss, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls.
A rain gauge at the Havre Fire Department showed 2.32 inches of rain.
Along with the needed rain was heavy lightning that started several fires in the Havre area. Capt. Mike Anderson of the Havre Fire Department said the department fought two fires Thursday night, one south of the airport and one on Pike Street where lightning struck a duplex.
Anderson said the first call, at 7:32 p.m., was for a grass fire south of the Havre City-County Airport. At the time, it was raining and hailing in Havre, but no rain was falling at the airport. Havre firefighters finished fighting that fire, with help from the Bear Paw Volunteer Fire Department, exactly two hours later. He said the fire burned about 40 or 50 acres.
Anderson said the firefighters were just getting cleaned up from the first fire when they received the call about the fire on Pike Street at 9:57. He said they sent two fire engines and two ambulances to that fire, which extensively damaged half of the duplex.
Anderson said two residents were taken to the hospital. One lived in the half of the duplex that was severely damaged and the other lived in the other half of the building and was injured while trying to fight the fire. He said none of the injuries were serious.
Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said several fires started in the county, but the rain put most of them out. He said the only one of great concern was the fire by the airport.
Loss of the National Weather Service said finding patches of heavy rain close to areas with little or none is not unusual in thunderstorm activity. She said the Weather Service received reports of isolated pockets of very heavy rain from Thursday night's storm.
Much of the state received .25 inches or more over the 24-hour reporting period, but some areas received little to none. Cut Bank reported .05 inches of rain for the period, and large sections of southeastern Montana and the northwestern corner reported .01 inches or less.
Most of the Hi-Line did receive rain, with Rudyard reporting 1.11 inches and some of the heaviest precipitation in the state was in in Blaine and Phillips counties. Frenchman Dam, about 20 miles north of U.S. Highway 2 on the Phillips and Valley county border, reported flash floods with water over the roadways and 1.5-inch hail with accumulations of hail 3 feet deep.
Areas in Phillips and Valley counties reported accumulations of rain from 1.75 to 2.5 inches. Flash floods were reported south of Malta on U.S. Highway 191. An area 14 miles north of Saco reported receiving 1-inch hail and accumulated 1.25 inches of rain in 15 minutes, the National Weather Service said.
Loss said isolated pockets of heavy rain are normal in thunderstorm activity. She said what was most unusual about the storms is how widespread they were.
She said there is a potential for similar storms again today.
"Actually, I will say the dynamics (for storms) look a little stronger today," she said. "The precipitable moisture is in the same ballpark."
Loss said an influx of monsoonal moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Baja California is coming directly over Montana and creating the precipitable moisture in the atmosphere causing the storms.