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Snow on the rims

Snow covers the Rims above MSU Billings in early April.

April was one very cold month — not the coldest Billings has ever seen, but close enough.

“Our average temperature was 4.4 degrees below normal, tying for the 11th-coldest April on record,” said Joe Lester, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Billings.

Records date to 1934 at Billings Logan International Airport, the city’s official recording site. The coldest April in the history books was 2002, with an average temperature of 28.5 degrees. In 2013, the average was 41.8 degrees.

Billings set seven record lows during April — four for the coldest daily high and three for the coldest low, Lester said. Temperatures during the 16-day period beginning on April 8 were so cold that they set a record for that period.

The coldest temperature of the month was 15 degrees on the 10th and 15th. Normal low temperatures for April range from 31 degrees at the beginning of the month to 38 degrees at the end. This year, April had 14 days with lows that fell at or below freezing.

High temperatures usually range from 53 to 62 degrees. But in April 2013, high temperatures were at or below freezing on six days, including a 28-degree high on April 9.

The highest temperature of the month was 77 degrees on the 27th.

“When it's cold like this, we usually expect there will be more precipitation,” Lester said. “But not only was it cooler, it was on the dry side.”

Even with all the cold temperatures, Billings received just 5.7 inches of snow in April — 2.7 inches less than normal. For the year, snowfall is 12.6 inches behind the normal winter total of 53 inches.

Although Billings had just seven clear days during the entire month, a precipitation deficit continued to build. Average precipitation for April is 1.66 inches. This year, the total was 1.02 inches, making it the 24th-driest in 79 years of record-keeping.

NWS preliminary statistics show measurable precipitation fell on 10 days during the month, and traces of precipitation fell on 11 other days. Measurable snow was reported on five days.

The wettest day during the month was April 8, when .36 of an inch was measured.

For the year, Billings has collected a total of 2.16 inches of precipitation, nearly 1.5 inches below normal.

“We are still in a drought,” Lester said. “We need to see a wet May and June.”

Low temperatures have slowed mountain snowmelt, he said, noting that there is little sign of melt water coming down Montana rivers.

“But this is a time of change,” he said. “It’s hard for a weather pattern to remain stable for long periods. It can be 75 one day and 45 the next.”

More moisture is expected Friday and Saturday as temperatures begin to climb, Lester said.