Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A welcomed, wet cool down

Fire restrictions and winter storm warnings

A hot, dry summer was washed away last week by a 2-day storm that brought between 1 inch and 2.60 inches of rain to Stillwater County.
A large system that passed through nearly the entire state from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16 dumped as much as 2.6 inches of rain in the Columbus area, 2.37 inches in the Reed Point area, 2.10 inches in the Rapelje area, 1.51. inches in Park City area and 2.10 inches in the Fishtail area, according to a special report from the National Weather Service (NWS). (See the chart for specific locations).
The official number for the city of Columbus was 1.69 inches.
The moisture came as both the county and the city of Columbus entered the second week of Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, and smoke from fires west continued to shroud the mountains and periodically affect the air, while temperatures remained in the upper 80s and 90s range.
Columbus saw a 30-degree temperature change on Sept. 15, with a high of 54 degrees.

As of last Friday, the Custer Gallatin National Forest had lifted Stage 1 fire restrictions, allowing campfires to resume due to the rain and cooler temperatures, with the exception of the Sioux Ranger District. Stage 2 Fire Restrictions remained in effect in Stillwater County and the city of Columbus.

The total precipitation in June, July and August in Columbus totaled a scarce 1.93 inches. The normal total for those summer months is 4.33 inches, according to the NWS. So far for September, there has been 1.69 inches of rain in the city of Columbus. That compares to the normal total of .65 inches at this point in the month.
Rapelje’s summer precipitation total was 2.91 inches, compared to the normal amount of 4.99 inches. So far in September, 2.43 inches of rain has fallen, compared with the normal amount of .67 inches at this point in the month.
Mystic Lake’s summer precipitation total came in at 4.83 inches, down from the normal amount of 7.58 inches. So far this month there has been 1.08 inches of rain, compared with the normal amount of .95 inches for this point, according to the NWS.

Cooler temperatures and more rain are expected for Thursday with a high of 53 degrees, 40 percent chance of rain during the day and 80 percent chance of rain or snow Thursday night.
There is a 70 percent chance of rain or snow Friday with a high of 44 degrees, according to the NWS. Saturday and Sunday’s highs are forecast at 46 and 49 degrees respectively, with a 30 percent chance of rain or snow on both days, according to the NWS.

The NWS uses data from a number of different sources when compiling information for what it refers to as “event summaries,” said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tom Frieders. Doing so allows for more accurate readings, as things such a precipitation totals can vary just a few miles apart. The Sept. 14 through Sept. 16 precipitation totals are as follows:
Columbus (6 miles SSE) 8 AM Sun 2.60 inches
Columbus (3 miles S) 8 AM Sat 2.40 inches
Reed Point (5 miles SE) 6 AM Sun 2.37 inches
Absarokee (.6 miles S) 8 AM Sun 2.20 inches
Rapelje (.8 miles S) 8 AM Sun 2.12 inches
Fishtail (3.1 miles W) 8 AM Sat 2.10 inches
Park City (.5 miles S) 7 AM Sun 1.95 inches
Molt (5.7 miles SSW) 7 AM Sun 1.80 inches
Columbus (7.5 miles E) 7 AM Sun 1.79 inches
Columbus (.9 miles NW) 7 AM Sat 1.52 inches
Park City (6 miles WSW) 4 PM Fri 1.51 inches
Columbus (7.2 miles E) 7 AM Sat 1.47 inches
Fishtail (18.1 miles SW 4 PM Sat 0.99 inches

There are currently 41 active fires burning in Montana, with four of the largest in the Lolo National Forest. While the rain and sudden winter weather did not impact all of the state’s fires, it did make substantial marks on many of them. Below is a list of the bigger wildfires and status of each one, according to InciWeb:

Lolo National Forest: 374,342 acres
-Rice Ridge Fire – 160,181 acres
Lightning sparked on July 24 and as of Wednesday, it was listed as 72 percent contained. A cool, moist atmosphere was expected to remain throughout the week, reducing potential fire activity. A total of 377 personnel are on scene.
-Lolo Peak Fire – 53,881 acres
Lightning-sparked on July 15, 10 miles southwest of Lolo. It was 87 percent contained as of Wednesday. Rain showers increased the humidity and suppressed most of the open flames over the weekend. Fire activity is minimal due to weather, but “heavy fuels” will continue to smolder until “full consumption.” A total of 275 personnel are on scene.

-Highway 200 Complex – 47,118 acres
Lightning-sparked on Aug. 28. As of Wednesday, it was 35 percent contained. Rain fell Sunday night and Monday, dropping as much as .5 inches in some locations. Temperatures are well below normal with cloudy skies and more rain possible throughout the week. A total of 501 personnel are on the fire.

-Sapphire Complex – 43,733 acres
Unknown cause, started on July 24 and as of Wednesday, it was listed as 90 percent contained. Cold temperatures and precipitation had created minimal fire activity. A total of 71 personnel are on scene. Also being managed by the same team are:
-Goat Creek Fire – 8,323 acres / 95 percent contained.
-Little Hogback Fire – 29,654 acres / 25 percent contained.
-Sliderock Fire – 874 acres / 75 percent contained.

-Sunrise Fire – 26,310 acres
Lightning-caused on July 16, 11 miles southeast of Superior. It was 95 percent contained as of Wednesday with 17 personnel on scene. It received nearly an inch of rain in 48 hours and snow was expected at the higher elevations. A total of 100 personnel are on scene.

Beaverhead/Deerlodge National Forest
-Meyers Fire - 62,034 acres
Lightning caused on July 14, and as of Wednesday was at 90 percent containment. Lower temperatures along with rain and snow was expected to start Tuesday and continue through the weekend. A total of 187 personnel on scene.

Lewis and Clark National Forest
-Blacktail Fire – 5,351 acres
Lightning caused on Sept. 10, with a mixture or snow and rain expected to impact the fire throughout the week. A total of 100 personnel on scene, with 10 percent containment Wednesday.