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Two storms in mid-May improved upper-elevation snowpack levels around southwest Montana, but warm conditions in late May and June have drained much of the region’s remaining high-elevation snow.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that on June 1, snowpack in the Gallatin, Jefferson, Upper Yellowstone and Madison river basins was at 92%, 76%, 73% and 62% of normal, respectively.

By Wednesday, snowpack in the Gallatin, Jefferson, Upper Yellowstone and Madison river basins had dropped to 46%, 26%, 23% and 17% of normal, in that order.

Snow at 82 out of 138 total SNOTEL sites in the state had melted by June 1, and 60% to 80% of this year’s peak snowpack remained at the highest elevations in general, according to an NRCS Montana Water Supply Outlook Report.

“The snowpack in the state peaked early and at below average levels in most locations,” said Mage Hultstrand, acting NRCS Montana water supply specialist, in a news release.

Forecasted streamflow volumes across Montana have varied throughout the first week of June. Levels forecasted in some larger basins, including the Gallatin and Yellowstone River basins, were near normal on June 1, according to NRCS.

Predicted volumes for the month of June in Hyalite Reservoir, Hebgen Lake and the Gallatin River near Gateway were near normal Wednesday. Forecasts for volumes at Ennis Lake and in the Yellowstone and Shields rivers near Livingston were below normal.

At Ruby Reservoir, the Beaverhead River at Barrett’s Diversion Dam and the Beaverhead River near Grant, forecasts for streamflow and inflow volumes during June were 66%, 45% and 13% of normal on Wednesday, respectively.

“The Jefferson and Madison river basins, which have been a concern for most of the season, did receive good precipitation from the storms in May,” Hultstrand said. However, “it was not enough to make up for water year deficits from the lack of precipitation in March and April.”

Two storms in mid-May brought significant precipitation to much of the state, particularly along the Rocky Mountain Front and Flathead River basin. The storms added to snow that was still sitting at upper elevations, according to NCRS.

In many areas, those gains melted away by June 1 amid warm, dry conditions. The melt triggered rising stream flows throughout the state.

Once the rest of the snowpack melts, stream flows are expected to decline into the summer, according to NRCS.

There is a 70% chance of showers in Bozeman on Thursday, but conditions were predicted to heat up to 87 degrees by Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.

Long-range models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predict southwest Montana will see higher-than-normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in the coming month.

“The long-range forecast also calls for a continuation of conditions seen throughout much of this year: increased chances of warmer and drier weather than normal,” NRCS wrote. “Current water year precipitation... is near to below average in most locations.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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