By Tim Leeds
It never rains but it pours especially during the fair, it seems.
North-central Montana has been drenched by rain starting Monday, with rain so heavy Thursday night that the Great Northern Fair Midway was shut down two hours early, at 10 p.m.
Blaine County Extension Agent Mike Schuldt said yesterday that the rain has hurt some haying efforts by local agriculture producers, and there has been some patchy hail. Local farmers and ranchers, coming back from three straight years of drought, don't seem to mind, he added.
"They'd rather see the rain than put up hay," he said.
Other areas were not as fortunate. Liberty County Extension Agent John Maatta said there were areas of extensive hail damage north of Chester, with hail continuing in a swath to the western edge of Hill County. Some farmers were trying to harvest wheat on the southern edge of the county, and it has slowed that down, he said.
At the National Weather Service's reporting station at the Havre-Hill County Airport, the week's rain has put Havre above average for the year. The annual average precipitation is 11.16 inches, and Havre received 12.29 inches by this morning. This week's rain produced 1.88 inches of that.
Rosalie Sather of the Farm Service Agency in Hill County said most reports in the county have been of rain. No one seems to be reporting extensive hail damage, she said.
Other areas have been receiving rain, but most haven't had as much as Havre since early June's massive storms. Maatta said Liberty County varies, with Chester and areas north of U.S. Highway 2 slightly above average, and areas south of the highway slightly below average.
Chouteau County Extension Agent Judee Wargo said there has been a little bit of hail, with the most extensive damage near Knees, north of Great Falls. Mostly it has just rained.
"It's been glorious," she said.
Ken Pomeroy, Weather Service meteorologist in Great Falls, said the early rain this week was caused by thunderstorms, which is not unusual this time of year. Thursday night's extended rain was caused by a weather pattern from the west coast, he said.
The Weather Service expects the rain to drop off by tomorrow, with another weather system coming through early next week. Pomeroy said the system is not expected to drop any extensive rain.
Outside of the puddles and mud caused at the Hill County Fairground, there didn't seem to be any major problems in Havre due to the rain. City public works personnel said the department didn't receive any reports of severe flooding in the streets or houses.