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Weather watchers eye runoff

| May 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Spring runoff is well under way, and the potential for flooding exists in the Yaak River drainage depending on weather, said representatives from the National Weather Service.

The Yaak River was 9 inches below flood stage on Sunday afternoon as warm weather sparked high runoff flows through Saturday and a series of weather systems from the northwest started bringing in some rain showers Sunday, said meteorologists Peter Felsch and Ray Nickless from the Missoula NWS office.

As the week progresses, continued cooler temperatures and rain should slow the melt off and lessen the threat, they said during a weekly teleconference on Friday.

"It's really behaving well in terms of how the snow pack is coming off, and we will keep an eye on that in terms of weather," Nickless said.

The Kootenai River drainage is 104 percent of average for snow pack.

"Things are looking pretty good in terms of how they are coming off," Nickless said. "We have seen the peak in the Fisher River flows."

Felsch said a large tropical low in the Gulf of Alaska is churning weather toward the Northwest this week with additional fronts lined up over the Pacific.

Cooler temperatures than the 70s and 80s experienced last weekend will be the norm this week with scattered showers, some heavy, he said.

"There will be quite a bit of wetting rains with this change," Felsch said.

He said none of the systems would stall over western Montana because of a strong jet stream.

La Nina conditions over the South Pacific are weakening, Felsch said.

"It's good La Nina is weakening because sometimes our summers are very hot and dry under La Nina," Felsch continued. "Neither La Nina nor El Nino are strong during the summer anyway but La Ninas tend to have a wetter winter into spring pattern, a cooler."

The two men said all of western Montana is 100 percent or more of average for snow pack.

"We might have to go back to 1996 or 1997 for as good stream flow throughout western Montana," Nickless said.