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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Rainfall a welcome break from drought

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Eastern Montana received a much-needed dousing of rain this past weekend as a slow-moving storm system lingered over the region all day Friday and into Saturday morning, dumping nearly 2 inches in the immediate Glendive area. While the rain total wasn’t enough to cut much into the area’s precipitation deficit for the year, it did succeed in settling the smoke and haze from Montana’s wildfires out of the air and National Weather Service meteorologists say the long, hot summer should finally be over and more normal fall weather patterns should be here to stay.

The immediate Glendive area was fortunate enough to be one of the greatest beneficiaries of the storm system, receiving one of the highest rainfall totals reported in the weather service’s Glasgow station reporting area. 

The Glendive Airport’s official tally from the storm was 1.71 inches. A weather service spotter in the Forest Park subdivision recorded 1.67 inches and another out on Marsh Road recorded 1.21 inches. Glendive’s official total from the storm is the fourth best in the region reported so far to the weather service. A gauge north of Terry in Prairie County recorded 2.39 inches, Mosby in Garfield County recorded 1.96 inches and Wibaux recorded 1.88 inches.

Weather service meteorologist Brandon Bigelbach noted that by and large, the further to the south a location was, the more rain it received from the weekend storm.

“I do know the higher precipitation amounts were kind of in that southeastern area (of Montana), and as you went north it was less,” Bigelbach said.

The recorded rain totals bear that out. Glasgow, one of the areas hit hardest by this summer’s drought,  recorded just 0.85 inches at the weather service station itself. Wolf Point got 0.83 inches and Malta, in Phillips County, got just 0.41.

While the rain was a welcome relief, it didn’t do a whole lot to cut into this year’s drought conditions. Following the storm, Glendive has recorded 8.06 inches of precipitation so far this year. However, that total is still more than 5 inches less than the historic year-to-date average of 13.55 inches.

One thing that does appear to have happened, according to Bigelbach, is that the weekend storm appears to have finally heralded the end of any lingering summer weather. He said the 14-day outlook is calling for above normal chances of precipitation and below normal temperatures, with highs most days in the 50s or 60s and low temperatures generally falling into the 30s and 40s. 

“It seems so far that we have experienced a pretty strong pattern shift,” Bigelbach said. “It seems like a pretty quick transition, but we are now in a fall weather pattern.”

Bigelbach also noted that the next real chance of rain — after Tuesday’s potential rain event produced virtually nothing in the immediate area — would come at the end of this week through this weekend, with “periodic chances” of some precipitation accumulation.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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