BOZEMAN – A lot to cover in today’s weather update. First, the Montana Drought Monitor shows another increase in drought severity over SW Montana since last week.
“EXTREME” drought conditions are now building over Beaverhead, Madison, eastern Gallatin and most of Park counties in SW Montana. The Butte region is still under “SEVERE” drought rating and around Anaconda westward “MODERATE” drought continues.
Wildfire smoke is very noticeable today and nearby mountain ranges are hard to see with the low-level haze. Most of this wildfire smoke is coming from Oregon, Washington, central Idaho and a few smaller fires in western Montana.
If the flow aloft is out of the west or SW wildfire smoke will continue to impact our region.
1 pm air quality ratings were mostly in the moderate range locally and across western and central counties of Montana. The longer this smoke lingers over the region, the higher the rating.
A weak upper-level Low is spinning along the high-line of Montana producing scattered thunderstorms over northern and eastern Montana. The best chance for strong to severe thunderstorms will be across the far eastern counties of Montana and into North and South Dakota Thursday afternoon and evening.
There is a very low chance for a few dry thunderstorms to develop over SW Montana east of the divide this afternoon.
Finally, the other big weather story of today is a RED FLAG WARNING is up through 9 pm Thursday evening for most of SW Montana, especially for the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest areas.
The reason for the fire weather warning is gusty wind and low humidity. Hundreds of lightning strikes impacted SW Montana Wednesday afternoon and hold over lightning strikes combined with increasing wind and low humidity could lead to new fire starts this afternoon.
This is also a critical time for human caused fires to develop and extreme caution is needed with all outdoor activities this afternoon and evening.
Temperatures will be trending slightly cooler for Friday but should jump back into the 90s this weekend.