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Thick ice forming on rivers and streams, but no problems yet in Western MT

Posted at 3:18 PM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 18:23:54-05
Western Montana’s rivers and streams are generating a lot of ice formation over our recent cold snap. (MTN News photo)

MISSOULA – Western Montana’s rivers and streams are generating a lot of ice formation over our recent cold snap but so far there’ve been no problems reported despite the slowdowns.

“Certainly there’s some ice out there and it’s causing water to back up in certain areas. We haven’t heard of anything as far as real problems right now — as far as any water getting into impacting the public at any location. But we’re going to keep an eye on this,” National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless said.

The larger rivers at least have been relatively ice free for much of the winter but that started to change when temperatures started to plunge at the end of January. And by the start of this week, most have been quickly cut down to smaller channels, or with under ice flows on the streams.

Temperatures will moderate this week. But Nickless says that can actually help, allowing the rivers to run a little more freely for a few days. The trick is for us to stay away from large amounts of snow, or rain…

“As long as the temperature fluctuations aren’t too severe and we don’t get rain mixed in with any large temperature increases. It’s a good thing to have some moderation in temperatures. That helps to get the water channeling through what ice is out there,” Nickless said. “Right now I don’t expect that much in the way of changes in the ice in the rivers. With a little bit of moderation that can certainly help.”

The National Weather Service uses the same network of stream gauges to monitor the rivers for ice jams that is critical to forecasting floods in the spring.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News