The Missoula Valley still has over nine inches of snow on the ground, according to the National Weather Service, and how and when it melts will dictate any flooding in early spring.

Meteorologist Jeff Kitzmiller said 2019 is looking like a near record year for valley snow depth.

“Up to today, we are in second place for the most snow on the ground this late in the season, and the question is how does it melt and how fast will we lose it”, said Kitzmiller. “The two things we look at are what does our high temperature do, and what will our low temperature do? Right now, because we have so much snow it’s been hard to warm up in the afternoon and we remain cold at night. When that happens it slowly gets rid of the snow pack and that makes things a little more tame.”

Kitzmiller said the weather will warm as we enter next week.

“We are looking for a warming trend early next week, but we aren’t really seeing any rain. We will start seeing all this snow melt off and we will start seeing the ponding and all that low elevation problem that you would expect in fields and on low lying roads. People definitely want to keep an eye on that, but until we get a really big warm-up with our nights above freezing, we aren’t going to be able to lose the snow very easily.”

Kitzmiller said the mountain basins around western Montana are actually at near or even below normal levels.

“It actually looks like we’re pretty close to normal,” he said. “We’re just barely above normal for the upper Clark Fork, and in the Flathead they’re just below normal for their snow pack, so when we look at the mountains, we could say they’re typical. So, for the main stem rivers, they’ll come into play later when we figure out how fast we’ll lose our mountain snow pack.”

Kitzmiller said 2019 is similar to records kept for 1969.

“The number one place is held by 1969 and on the same date we have today they had 11 inches of snow on the ground, and by the 26th of March they were down to only two inches,” he said. “They lost most of their snow pack in that 10 day period, and we’re thinking we could be similar to that. We have somewhere in the vicinity of three inches of water in the snow in Missoula, so if you were to lose all that in 10 days that would be comparable to getting a normal rain every day.”

Kitzmiller said residents living in low lying areas should make sure the drains in their areas are cleared so that the melting snow won’t pond or pool and end up in basements or crawl spaces.

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