December snow boosted our year-end moisture totals, but very little of that moisture will actually absorb into the soil. Since the ground is frozen, most of it will run off into rivers and streams including the Missouri.
Right now, Gavins Point Dam is surrounded by a sea of white and it's a similar scene upstream. More than six inches of snow currently covers large portions of North Dakota. Once that melts down, we're looking at around an inch of moisture. Last January, barely any snow covered the Missouri River basin, including Montana.
But before the floods of 2011, at this point, most of the river basin north of Pierre had more than ten inches of snow on the ground.
We have a happy medium so far this winter. We are right on schedule for the 30-year average in the mountains of Montana. The floods in 2011 and 1997 were largely caused by melting snow upstream of KELOLAND.
The Army Corps of Engineers predicts levels at Gavins Point Dam will be mostly normal through February. But keep in mind, in 2011 much of the snow melted from late March through mid-April. Since new storm tracks could force snow up into the slopes of Montana, the numbers could change.