Cool, Wet Weather Could Ease Montana's Droughts and Fires

Sep 12, 2017

This was the second driest summer on record in Montana, but meteorologists say rain is finally on the way. 

Since July, the state has seen towns threatened by wildfires and choked with smoke, crops getting killed by drought and grass fires destroying rangeland. 

But a cold and rainy system entering Montana Thursday could put at least a temporary end to the suffering.

“It’s not going to be what we call a season ender or an event that will completely end the fire season, but it’s definitely going to help,” says Arin Peters, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls.

He says temperatures will drop by about twenty degrees and most of the state will get at least a smattering of rain, though some parts could receive up to two inches.

“And then we are also expecting, in the higher elevations above 6,000 feet, the possibility of some significant snow as well,” he says.

Peters says that could really help firefighters battling massive blazes in the western half of the state. He says both the Park Creek and Arrastra Creek fires near Lincoln are above 6,000 feet. Peters also says the cold front should push smoke out of the area.

“Now, the caveat with that is that Idaho is not predicted to get as much rain as most of Montana is so if the wind picked up again from the west or southwest we may see that smoke return, coming from west of Montana," he says. "But at least in the immediate future that rain will definitely help the air quality in the state.”

The forecast isn’t so bright for Montana’s severe flash droughts, however.

“Much of the state is going to require anywhere from six to twelve inches of rain to actually eliminate the drought, but the rain we’re going to see this week is definitely going to make an impact, is definitely going to help improve the drought conditions,” he says.

According to Peters, there’s a decent chance wet and cool conditions could persist across the state over the next two weeks.