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Nearly completely covered in snow, a car west of Missoula sits idle for the winter.

Spring is coming, and a big melt is on its way.

Time to clear the gutters and chip out ice from the drainage grates.

"There's going to be a lot of slushiness. There's going to be a lot of mud. It's going to get messy in a lot of places," said meteorologist Corby Dickerson with the National Weather Service in Missoula.

The city of Missoula saw 59.3 inches of snow this winter compared to the usual 38 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

"We've far surpassed normal from an average winter," Dickerson said.

With temperatures heading into the 40s on Friday and possibly hitting 50 on Tuesday and Wednesday, all those piles of snow are going to start melting into water. As a result, meteorologists are advising people to prepare for some flooding in the next five or so days.

Since the ground remains solid, all that water is going to start flowing, Dickerson said. He said people who have seen water in their basements or crawl spaces in the past might want to prepare.

On the brighter side, Dickerson said heavy rain isn't expected, snow isn't melting yet in the mountains and temperatures should keep coming down at night. That should keep the Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers in check.

"All the big rivers are going to behave themselves for the time being," Dickerson said.

But creeks, culverts, drainage basins, and places where people have stacked a lot of snow will see a lot of water. Dickerson said some people shoveled snow into piles thinking they'd deal with it "later."

"Later is probably now," he said.

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In other words, pick up the snow shovel again and move the mountains to a place they won't cause trouble.

The cooler nighttime temperatures in the upper 20s and lower 30s should help stymie any significant flooding at least in the short term.

"That melt should only happen during the daytime, with limited melting happening overnight due to the cooler temperatures," Dickerson said.

But there are no guarantees. The forecast discussion from the National Weather Service notes black ice might result the next several mornings after the refreeze at night.

"Of course, impacts will depend on how fast the snow melts," said the discussion. "At this time, the warm up looks to be gradual, but will be monitored."

Still, Dickerson said the season many Montanans have been hoping and praying for through a frigid winter is finally on it way.

"We're seeing normal temperatures for the first time in at least a month and a half," he said.

Indeed, Dickerson said he anticipates spring might land early.

"It looks like 3:58 p.m. Mountain Time on Wednesday, March 20, is the official start of spring. But I'd say we'll start here two days early," he said.

In the meantime, snow showers were predicted from Missoula to Hamilton on Wednesday evening.

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