A snowy, wet February across much of Montana left behind snowpack and precipitation levels not usually seen until April or May in many areas.
According to the monthly water supply outlook report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman, statewide snowpack was at 130 percent of normal by the beginning of this month and up 20 percent from the month before.
"Stellar is the perfect word to describe February's snowpack, precipitation accumulation and the stream flow forecasts for March 1," the report said.
It was one of the snowiest Februaries on record, with storms that dropped several feet of snow in a matter of days in many areas. Only one basin, the Judith, saw a drop in snowpack and all basins in Montana are at or above average.
"To say that Mother Nature took great strides to improve Montana's snowpack would be an understatement in most areas," the NRCS report said. "February turned out to be one of the most plentiful snow accumulation months on record."
The Yellowstone River basin checked in at 141 percent of median and 156 percent of last year, with the upper part at 143 percent of median and the lower at 140 percent.
The Missouri River basin overall was 131 percent of the median with the Smith, Judith and Musselshell rivers at 147 percent of the median.
Statewide precipitation numbers rivaled those of the snowpack, with Yellowstone reporting 212 percent of median and the Missouri at 173 percent of normal precipitation.
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The report says that the Red Lodge-Rock Creek drainage in the Beartooth Mountains remains the highest it's been since 1981. The area south of Cooke City reported new snow almost every day in February.
Across the entire upper Yellowstone River basin, snowfall was 212 percent of normal and snowpack increased from 119 percent of normal to 143 percent from Feb. 1 to March 1.
The lower Yellowstone basin saw similar increases over the month.
"Another month of excellent snow in most parts of the lower Yellowstone River basin has increased the snowpack totals to well above average," the report said.
The entire basin saw a snowpack increase of 26 percent over the month, finishing at 139 percent of average on March 1, thanks to 208 percent of the normal February snowfall.
On the Smith, Judith and Musselshell river basins, February started off a bit dry before a steady line of storms brought lots of snow beginning mid-month, finishing with 222 percent of the normal monthly snowfall.
That translated into 149 percent of normal for the Smith River basin, 145 percent on the Judith and 147 percent on the Musselshell.