How Dry Will Montana Get? Governor Declares State of Emergency
Governor Greg Gianforte has declared a State of Emergency in Montana for the ongoing drought. In a Tweet posted 7/1, Gianforte said the dry conditions are expected to get even worse.
Most of the state is below average for rainfall.
The Governor's Execute Order shared some details on just how serious the lack of rain is affecting much of the Treasure State, as an abnormally warm and dry weather pattern continues to impact Montana. A relatively mild winter, followed by little-to-no spring rain, means already meager soil moisture levels are likely to get worse.
- Moderate to extreme drought conditions are already happening in 69% of Montana (64.9 million acres), effecting 48 counties and six reservations.
- Extreme drought conditions are being reported in 16% of the state, effecting 14 counties and the Fort Peck Tribal Nation.
- Soil moisture levels in those counties and reservations are at 25% of normal.
- Hot and dry for the foreseeable future. Both long-term and short-term weather forecasting models are predicting little rain and above-average temperatures through July.
The State of Emergency opens avenues of financial relief for farmers and others.
The State of Emergency is largely symbolic; it's primary purpose is to expedite state financial resources to those affected by the prolonged dry-spell. Certain commercial motor-carrier rules have been temporarily suspended as well, cutting some red tape for farmers and ranchers.
Water levels at rivers and lakes across Montana are already dropping.
Many rivers and lakes are already facing sooner-than-usual drops in water levels. KTVQ reported that the Yellowstone River is flowing at 42% of normal, prompting concerns over possible water-use restrictions for City of Billings water customers. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has currently implemented fishing restrictions on seven popular rivers in the state, and surely more will be coming.
Somewhat surprisingly, there are currently just three active forest fires burning in Montana, according to InciWeb, the Incident Information website. That could change quickly as hot and dry weather continues to suck all of the moisture out of Big Sky Country. My fingers are crossed that the state won't burn to the ground this summer.