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Despite snow, drought conditions linger

A mass of snowfall in December has nearly caught north-central Montana up on precipitation for the calendar year, with more snow predicted today, but that has not been enough to overcome drought conditions in this region.

As of Tuesday, National Weather Service reported 25.3 inches of snow at its recording station at the Havre City-County Airport, more than a foot-and-a-half more than the normal value of 6.9 inches for Dec. 27. Snow has blanketed the region, and the state, this month, although north-central Montana evaded the massive storm that hit much of the country Christmas week, leading to massive damage and deaths.

And the snow in this part of Montana has translated to significant amounts of moisture, with the Havre station reporting Tuesday 1.1 inches of precipitation, three-quarters of an inch more than the normal amount Dec. 27 of .34 inches.

That also has raised the amount for the year, with Havre showing 10.07 inches for the calendar year by Dec. 27.

But that still has not raised the moisture level to normal amounts, with Havre short more than an inch from the normal amount of 11.76 inches, and the region still is far from making up its accumulated precipitation deficit in the last several years.

And that is reflected on the national Drought Monitor.

A swath of Category 3 Extreme Drought still is listed on the map released last Thursday, stretching from parts of Liberty and Chouteau counties across much of Hill and part of Blaine counties east to Daniels, Roosevelt and McCone counties, almost to the North Dakota border.

A region of D2 Severe Drought surrounds that through most of northern Montana to near the Continental Divide and most of the rest of the state is listed as in moderate drought.

Northwest Montana and parts of southern Montana are listed as abnormally dry, with a patch of Severe Drought listed in southwest tip of the state.

The only area listed as having no drought conditions is across the southern edge of the state, from parts of eastern Park County to parts of Custer and Powder River counties and stretching north into southern Musselshell County.

More snow is predicted - Hill and Blaine and the northeast corner of Chouteau counties were this morning under a winter weather advisory through 11 p.m. today - and the area is expected to have below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation through March, but overcoming the moisture deficit and eliminating drought conditions will take significant precipitation.

Havre, for example, has an accumulated precipitation deficit of nearly eight-and-a-half inches in the past three years. As of Dec. 19, the last date for which the data is available, the Havre area was expected to receive 35.28 inches since Jan. 1, 2020, while it actually received 26.84 inches.

The Drought Monitor lists the area of Exceptional Drought in Montana through the end of March as likely to continue to be in drought conditions, although the conditions are expected to improve.


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