2022 Fires Could Raise Flood Danger this Spring in Montana
A press release we received from FEMA on Monday (1/23) is urging Montanans affected by wildfires last season to be vigilant for increased chances of flooding and mudslide activity this spring in the Treasure State.
2022 saw record fire activity in the West.
According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information’s Monthly Wildfires Report, there were nearly 60,000 wildfires in the US from January to October 2022. Those fires burned over 7.2 million acres, making 2022 the 11th worst fire season in recent history.
It's a little early to accurately forecast wildfire conditions for the upcoming season, but in the latest report (1/3/23) from the National Interagency Fire Center they said significant wildland fire potential in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area (which includes Montana) for January through April is expected to be normal. They said,
Seasonal outlooks are trending towards normal temperatures by the beginning of spring. This trend is associated with the breakdown of the La Niña, with long-range predictions indicating an El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral state by late spring or early summer. Pre-green-up fire activity may be possible in April, but current conditions do not support a disposition for significant amounts of activity.
Of course, we all know that wildfire season really starts rolling well after April.
More fires = more potential for flooding.
FEMA reminds Montana residents that wildfires leave a potential hazard well after the flames have been snuffed out. Valleys, hills, and landscapes left bare of grasses and vegetation after a fire are much more likely to cause flash flooding or mudslide activity. It can take up to five years for a burned area to recover.
Now is a good time to review flood insurance options (they typically must be purchased at least 30 days in advance), especially if you live near an area that has been burned or is near a potential flood plain.