Picnic in the park

Four-year-old Huxlie Lindner munches on a slice of watermelon this week while "Teddy," a Golden Retriever, keeps a close eye on the disappearing treat. Lindner, her sister and a friend were enjoying a picnic with their babysitters in a Missoula park despite temperatures in the mid 40s.

After a winter of cold-weather records, Missoula’s spring still appears stuck somewhere between “brrr” and “yuck.”

Statistics from the National Weather Service show this April was the fourth-wettest on record, and caps a first quarter of 2019 with the coldest start since 1979. The average daily temperature from January 1 to April 30 was 27.3, which hasn’t been matched in 40 years.

“We still have our entire snowpack sitting up there waiting to melt,” NWS meteorologist Leeann Allegretto said on Wednesday. “We’ve increased some places because of the recent snowfall. We’re about two weeks behind for buds and blossoms compared to last year and the year before.”

Missoula’s average April high temperature was 55.3 degrees, 3.1 degrees below normal. The month also recorded 2.81 inches of precipitation, which was 1.63 inches above normal. That included April 9, when the valley collected 1.1 inches of moisture in a single day.

A spurt of warm days mid-month pushed water levels up, but real spring runoff remains in the future.

The Bitterroot Valley collected 111% of average snowpack this winter, making it the deepest drainage in western Montana. The upper Clark Fork River drainage (including Missoula) has about 105% of its average snowpack. The Kootenai River drainage in northwest Montana has the lowest regional snowpack with just 88% of average, while east of the Continental Divide, the Judith/Smith/Mussellshell area has the lead with 122% of average.

The Kalispell area also logged its fourth-wettest April since 1899. It got half an inch of rain on the 26th followed by another half-inch of snow on the 27th, leading to a monthly precipitation total of 2.27 inches. That was just over an inch above average for the month. Its average daily temperature of 27.3 degrees for the first quarter of the year was the coldest start since 1985.

Allegretto said the forecast for the coming week shows continued sunny mornings followed by cloudy afternoons and scattered rainshowers. Nighttime temperatures will keep dipping toward freezing, meaning it’s still too early for most garden planting and the snowpack won’t really start melting for a while longer.

“The longer we hold the below-freezing nighttime temperatures, the longer it holds off,” Allegretto said. “So far it’s doing it in a nice, orderly fashion.”

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.