As is clearly evident to anyone who has crossed over the Clark Fork River lately, our area streams are running high. So high in fact, that they are setting streamflow records for this time of the year. Following a winter of above average snowpack (that rivaled even 1997 & 2011) western Montana experienced near record warmth last week sending a large pulse of snowmelt raging downstream. A weekend of wet weather added to the runoff and prompted flood advisories throughout the region.
How high were the flows when compared to other years? The streamflow event was truly record breaking for late April and early May. Streams in our area typically see their highest flows from late May-early June. Below is a short list of some of the local stream gages that experienced record flows for the date of April 30th.
|USGS Gage Location||Flow on May 1st, 2018 (cfs)||Previous record flow for May 1st (cfs)|
|Clark Fork near Drummond||3,480||1,700 (2012)|
|Little Blackfoot near Garrison||1,540||785 (1981)|
|Clark Fork at Turah||7,130||4,010 (2012)|
|Clark Fork below Missoula||29,400||25,600 (1965)|
|Blackfoot near Bonner||14,200||8,250 (1965)|
In some locations the flows were not only historic for early May, they were some of the highest streamflow values measured in over 5 years. The low and mid elevation snowmelt in the Blackfoot Basin last week sent streamflow values in Bonner soaring to 14,500 cfs (their highest mark since 2011).
|Annual Peak Streamflow for the Blackfoot River near Bonner (2011-2017)|
|Water Year||Date||Streamflow (cfs)|
|2011||Jun. 09, 2011||17,100|
|2012||Apr. 27, 2012||12,200|
|2013||May 14, 2013||10,200|
|2014||May 27, 2014||10,800|
|2015||Jun. 03, 2015||3,940|
|2016||Apr. 25, 2016||4,480|
|2017||May 13, 2017||9,100|
Although there was a significant amount of snowpack that melted last week we still have a lot of snow left in the mountains and are still sitting above average for this time of year. With warmer weather forecast for later this week we should expect to see another bump in flows to follow.
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