More than two months of hot and dry weather that has fueled Montana’s wildfire season is about to make a big change.
Forecasts are calling for below normal temperatures by the later half of the week and an inch of precipitation or more, including the possibility mountain snow.
“There is a pretty significant upper level low pressure area dropping into the northwest part of the U.S. that’ll be replacing the warm and dry area,” said Dave Bernhardt, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls.
Cooler weather is forecast to move into the Helena Valley by this evening, and with it a 50 percent chance of rain through Wednesday and highs in the 70s.
By Thursday and Friday, the chance of rain increases to 90 percent with highs in the 50s Thursday and highs that may not make it to 50 on Friday, Bernhardt said. The normal high for this time of year is 74.
Helena could see rainfall from an inch to 1¼ inches, he said, with the snow level at about 6,500 feet.
With the dry summer Helena is far behind normal in its year-to-date precipitation. Since Jan. 1, Helena has received 5.29 inches of precipitation compared to an average of 8.96 inches -- a deficit of 3.67 inches.
Although it should dry out and highs should rebound into the 60s on Sunday and Monday, another rainy system should drop down by Tuesday and it could be even cooler, Corby Dickerson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula, told the Montana Standard on Monday.
“It looks like it’s going to give a one-two punch to our fire season and in fact, temperatures will be cooling down to more like mid-October instead of mid-September,” he said.