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Officials expect worse drought

By JOHN STROMNES of the Missoulian

KALISPELL - Drought was bad last summer, but it looks like it could be much worse this year, according to data presented Monday to the Flathead Basin Commission.

Ralph Carter, superintendent of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Hungry Horse Dam Project northwest of Kalispell, said that so far this season, precipitation in the mountains above the Flathead Basin is a mere 64 percent of normal.

"It is the fourth lowest year in the last 72 years," he said. The other three years were 1941, 1944 and 1977, the lowest being 1941.

It is the same story or worse throughout the Columbia River system in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

The Bureau of Reclamation is predicting 52 million acre feet of runoff, or 59 percent of average of the normal runoff of 103 million acre feet of water. The lowest recorded runoff for the Columbia system was 53.8 million.

An exceptionally wet spring could change these dire forecasts, he said.

-- Martin Thompson (, February 27, 2001

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