Spring officially got under way Tuesday, ending one of the Flathead Valley’s mildest winters in recent memory.
From Oct. 1 through March 20, just 30.2 inches of snowfall had been measured at Glacier Park International Airport. That’s almost 26 inches less than the average of 55.8 inches for the same period.
Precipitation, however, totaled 6.19 inches at the airport, not far off the average of 6.97 inches.
Mountain snowfall above the Flathead River Basin was quite different than in the valley, starting out well behind the average but eventually catching up to be 103 percent of normal.
Mountain snowpack above the Kootenai River Basin is at 120 percent of normal.
Bob Nester, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Missoula, said the trend of light conditions in the valleys but normal conditions in the mountains was widespread.
“The weather patterns we’ve experienced this year mostly involved westerly flows” that have resulted in mountain ranges receiving healthy precipitation while the valleys haven’t gotten as much, Nester said. “The valleys get most of their snowfall whenever we get more northwesterly flows.”
A lack of Arctic storms also played into the sparse valley snowfall.
It was also a milder winter in terms of temperatures.
The average temperature from Oct. 1 through May 20 was 31.8 degrees, compared to the long-term average of 29.8 degrees.
However, there was a noticeable lack of extremely cold days.
There was only one day when the temperatures dipped to zero or below: Jan. 24, when temperatures fell to one below zero.
Since 1948, there have been only three other winters — 1982, 1957 and 1952 — when temperatures did not get colder than zero or below.