Friday, 4 July 2008

Late snow brings relief and hardship to Northern Rockies

Published: July 2, 2008, IHT

"Snow in the mountains is money in the bank," Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana said. "The snow will melt and run into the streams through September. It's good for the fisheries and good for irrigation."
Schweitzer cited more good news from the state climatologist, who, he said, has forecast a cooler and wetter July than normal. Still, the governor said, though things are better, "no matter what the weather is, we're never more than two weeks from a drought."
For now, residents feel they have some breathing room.
"We got so much moisture in June, it released a pressure valve," said Lisa Bay, a rancher near Wolf Creek. "It was a grand sense of relief."
The situation is similar in Wyoming. Snowpack in the Bighorn Mountains, in the north-central part of the state, is 79 percent higher than the 30-year average, and 112 percent above the average in the area drained by the Powder and Tongue Rivers.
"Everything is up from average," said Leanne Stevenson, manager of natural resources and policy for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. "A lot of what makes a difference is not how much but how long it stays cool, and we actually had spring this year."

Farmers and ranchers, though, are happy. "We were way behind in moisture and we caught up and got an extra five or six inches" of rain in June, said Schweitzer, a farmer and a soil scientist. "Every extra inch of rain above average means seven more bushels per acre, and we got six inches. We'll get 40 more bushels per acre this year. That makes it a billion-dollar storm."

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