Snowy weather coming says forecaster
By ROGER MORRIS Western News Publisher
Recreationists worried about a repeat of the winter of no snow last year, better sharpen the edges on their skis or tune up their snowmobiles, according to the 10-day forecast from the National Weather Service.
"It looks like relief is coming this way," said Andrew Church, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Missoula. "An impressive system is moving that way Wednesday and Thursday for northwest Montana."
Church said the weather patterns are not looking like the winter of 2004-2005 when much of Lincoln County saw very little snow after the holidays, at least until spring. "There's not any sort of hint of that," Church said.
The surface temperature of the South Pacific is favoring wetter, snowier weather for the winter in the Pacific Northwest. Church said it's trending toward La Nina conditions which means wetter weather for this corner of the country.
Church admits it has been drier than average for the past two months.
The National Conservation Resource Service Snotel sites throughout the Kootenai River drainage are indicating the area is 89 percent of average in precipitation and 69 percent of average in water-content for that snow. The Flathead drainage is 87 percent of average for precipitation and 70 percent for water content while the lower Clark fork is 86 percent of average erage and 67 percent for water content.
But that's going to change.
"It's looking awfully wet for the next 10 days," Church said. "I think we'll be at or maybe above average at the end of the next 10 days."
Church is forecasting a good winter storm for northwest Montana Wednesday and Thursday that will taper off Friday and reload again Saturday and Sunday. He said that pattern will repeat itself over the next 10 days as storm after storm comes in off the Pacific Ocean.
That's good news for Kootenai Winter Sports, managers of the Turner Mountain Ski Area, which depends on a good Christmas break ski crowd to help pay the bills for the season. Turner hasn't opened for the season yet after being open only 3 days last year because of the lack of snow.
"We've obviously taken some rain over the last three to four days," said KWS officer Bruce Zwang. "We lost some snow at the bottom."
Zwang figures Turner needs at least 10-12 inches of snow to open.
"We may need more than that," he said. "That's in the ball park of what we need."
Zwang is hoping the storm Wednesday is what the weatherman prescribes for the ski area.
"We're ready to go," he said. "Ready to open at a moment's notice."
They just need snow.
Randy Remp of Dream Marine and snowmobiles said the sledding has been good up high but the lack of snow down low has hindered riding in popular places along nearby Pipe Creek. There is about 36 inches on top of Keeler, he said.
"We have a good base down," Remp said. "And I think it's going to be a good season."
The Keeler-Rattler and Spread Creek areas have plenty of snow, he said.
"I think we're going to see good snow," Remp said. "We have a good base and that's what it takes for good riding."
Precipitation in the Libby area has been below average for the past two months according to daily statistics kept by the U.S. Forest Service at Libby. November and December, which are the wettest two months of the year, have been significantly below the average of 2.25 inches for each month. November finished with 1.13 inches of precipitation while December is currently at .89 inches.
Libby averages 17.56 inches of precipitation a year according to those records and in 2005, the USFS has measured 11.60 inches year-to-date with a handful of days to go.