Bitterroot hits new record for rain-free weather

2012-10-11T19:33:00Z Bitterroot hits new record for rain-free weatherBy PERRY BACKUS - Ravalli Republic Ravalli Republic
October 11, 2012 7:33 pm  • 

Never in the history of record keeping has the Bitterroot Valley gone so many days in a row without rain.

The record for consecutive rainless days in Hamilton was set in 1959 after rain gauges didn’t see a drop over the course of 41 days.

As of Thursday, the Hamilton weather station hasn’t recorded any rain for 49 days, according to Alex Neigher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

At Erica Lee’s weather station four miles east of Corvallis, the 50-day mark without rain came Wednesday. Lee takes weather observations for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

“It was a milestone of sorts,” Lee said Wednesday. “It’s one thing that we could beat Missoula on.”

When rain finally fell in Missoula last week, it tied a record for 42 days without rain that was set in 1896.

An atmospheric river that’s welling up in the southern Pacific is predicted to change this long course of dry weather starting sometime this weekend.

“We are looking at a significant weather pattern change as compared to what we’ve been experiencing here for some time,” Neigher said.

A weather pattern that’s sometimes called the Pineapple Express appears to be setting up over the Pacific Ocean. If it does as expected, Neigher said up to an inch of precipitation could drop on the western edge of the Bitterroot Mountains.

“Certain wildfires in the Bitterroot are going to get a pretty healthy dose of moisture,” Neigher said. “It is potentially a season ending event or at the very least, a serious season helping event.”

The Bitterroot and Missoula valleys may not get as much rain as the western edge of the mountains, but winds are expected to be enough to scour most of the remaining smoke away, he said.

The weather has the potential to stick around for awhile.

“It potentially could break down the major blocking high pressure system that’s caused this dry period,” Neigher said. “It certainly has the potential to stick around through next week and potentially even longer than that.

“It’s great news for everyone,” he said.

Reach reporter Perry Backus at 363-3300 or

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