Record-setting snow season
March didn’t come in like a lion.
It came in like an angry wolverine with a migraine.
The powerful storm that swept the area starting early Sunday left 13.5 inches of new snowfall in Rapelje by the early morning hours of Monday, March 5. Molt got a foot of new snow from the storm while Columbus received 10 inches, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Absarokee’s official snowfall total for that short time period was 6.5 inches, with Park City coming in at 8 inches.
On Sunday, heavy snow, wind, poor visibility and slick roads led to at least 30 crashes in Stillwater County by 7:27 p.m. The first crash was reported at 8:37 a.m. The majority of these took place on I-90 and many involved semi trucks, with MHP troopers, deputies, Columbus Fire Rescue, tow trucks and other emergency crews working the scenes in hazardous conditions. The chaos on the roads gave emergency crews an opportunity to use the newly purchased portable warning message board, that is mounted to a CFR vehicle and designed to give oncoming motorist an additional visual warning of a crash ahead. The sign was used multiple times on Sunday.
For Columbus, the new snowfall pushed the year-to-date snowfall to 85.3 inches — more than 7 feet. That makes this 2017-2018 winter the snowiest year on record, said NWS Meteorologist Tom Frieders.
The previous snowiest winter on record came in 2013-2014, when there was 76.4 inches.
February’s snowfall total was 28.3 inches, ranking it second only behind February 2014.
Three records were broken during February:
•Feb. 20: 27 degrees below zero (previous record was 13 degrees below in 1949)
•Feb. 21: 25 degrees below zero (previous record was 13 below in 1936)
•Feb. 22: 13 degrees below zero (previous record was 12 below in 1936)
MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN SNOW PACK
The record-setting snowfall has put the Upper Yellowstone River Basin at 166 percent of normal while the Lower Yellowstone River Basin is 126 percent of normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The Missouri, Upper Clark Fork and Sun/Teton, Marias basins are all currently more than 150 percent of normal.
The Gallatin, Jefferson, Bitteroot, St. Mary, Milk and Smith/Judith/Musselshell river basins are all between 130 percent and 149 percent of normal. The Madison, Lower Clark Fork and Kootenai basins are between 110 percent and 129 percent of normal.
Those conditions have weather experts looking at erosion and possible flooding issues when the snowpack comes out of the mountains — depending on what kind of weather spring brings.
A normal spring that brings days in the upper 40s and lower 50s, with the temperature falling during the night, will help the snow pack come down more gradually, NWS Meteorologist Tom Frieders told the local Local Emergency Planning Committee in Columbus early Wednesday morning.
A spring with early and above normal temperatures could bring the snow down much more quickly, which would present possible problems, said Frieders.
In a nutshell, high snowpack and a dry spring equals extended high flows and siginifcant bank erosion, but limited floodling.
High snow pack and a wet spring equals increased risk of flooding.
Frieders also noted that winter is not yet over so more snow will be added to that snowpack.