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Monday, March 19, 2018

Warm, dry November provides no drought relief

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

With a warm, dry November in the rearview mirror, the Glendive area is pretty much assured of finishing 2017 with one of its driest years on record barring the receipt of unprecedented snowfall in December, something that doesn’t look at all likely.

With November in the books, Glendive has received just 9.11 inches of precipitation in 2017, over 5 inches off the mark of the 30-year annual average of 14.24 inches through the month of November. This year’s precipitation levels currently rank 2017 as the 13th driest year in Glendive’s recorded history, according to meteorologist Alan Hickford with the National Weather Service’s Glasgow reporting station. Hickford noted at this point, there’s nothing barring a December full of blizzards that’s going to make up the precipitation deficit.

“Even if it’s above average (snowfall for December), you’re not going to get to normal,” Hickford said.

November, normally one of the driest months of the year already, did nothing to help alleviate the dry conditions. A scant 0.25 inches of water equivalent precipitation was recorded in Glendive for the month, two tenths lower than the 30-year average of 0.45 inches. What precipitation there was resulted from the 2.6 inches of snowfall Glendive recorded in November — which Hickford noted beat the November average of 2.2 inches — but nearly all that snow fell on the month’s first weekend, with 1.2 inches of it falling on Nov. 4.

Besides being dry, November ended up being quite warm. Given that the month started off cold and snowy, the average mean temperature really wasn’t that far off the norm — the average mean for November 2017 was 33.3 degrees, just over the historic average of 33 degrees — but the last week or so of the month was particularly sweltering. 

Over the course of the Thanksgiving holiday, from Nov. 22-24, Glendive set or tied new record highs for each of those three days. Thanksgiving Day saw a recorded temperature of 65 degrees in Glendive, tying the old record for turkey day set back in 1954. Black Friday was the hottest day of the month, with the temperature peaking at 66 degrees.

However, meteorologist Brandon Bigelbach noted that the Thanksgiving Day temperatures in Glendive were mild compared to many other places around Eastern Montana. Glasgow shattered their old record for the day by 12 degrees while Sidney, Wolf Point and Malta all saw their Thanksgiving Day temperatures soar 10 degrees higher than their old records and Miles City set a new record 11 degrees higher than the old one.

“Some of them not only broke their old records, they destroyed them,” Bigelbach said.

The cause of the recent heat wave has been a stubborn ridge of high pressure that’s refused to budge from over the region, Hickford said. 

However, Hickford added that the high pressure is starting to weaken and looks to be on its way out, signified at the beginning of this week with much colder tempertatures on Monday followed by steady snow flurries and accumulationon Tuesday. 

Tuesday’s snowstorm, though it quickly melted by that afternoon, created quite a mess for a while on Interstate 94 between Glendive and Terry, with very icy conditions. 

“There was probably a 10-mile stretch that was pretty bad,” said Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Joel Gramm.

Gramm noted that there were two accidents involving semi trucks near mile marker 189, just over the county line in Prairie County. One of those trucks jacknifed in the eastbound driving lane, which led to the eastbound lanes of I-94 being closed for nearly two hours. Gramm added that the Bad Route Rest Area became choked with semi trucks, many of whom he said had pulled off the road to wait for better conditions long before the eastbound lanes of the interstate were actually closed.

According to Bigelbach, the Climate Prediction Center has called for Eastern Montana to experience a “colder and wetter than normal” December. However, Hickford added that while cooler weather is in the forecast in the coming weeks, any precipitation significant enough to make any headway against the area’s precipitaiton deficit remains elusive.

“We’re seeing some signs, at least way out in the forecast, of the colder,” Hickford said.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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