- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The much-needed rain that fell across Montana over the weekend is providing some relief to parched areas in southwestern and southern Montana, where precautionary drought advisories had been issued before the storms hit.

Rain, and snow in higher elevations, fell steadily across much of the state starting Friday, dropping between 1 and 2 inches of water in Livingston, Billings, Big Timber, Red Lodge and Ryegate.

The federal government’s Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that about 10 inches of snow fell in the Beartooth Mountains over the weekend.

That could help a snowpack that’s been depleted by a drier-than-usual beginning of the year and help the six counties considered dry enough for the governor’s Drought Advisory Committee to recommend those counties to convene their own drought committees.

The counties are Beaverhead, Madison and Gallatin counties in the southwest and Rosebud, Custer and Prairie counties in the southeast. Those areas received heavier amounts rain over the weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Bernhardt said Monday.

The counties are typically dry to begin with, and even an inch of rain will boost them near their usual precipitation, he said.

“In the areas that appeared to be driest, it did help push amounts closer to normal,” Bernhardt said of the weekend rain. “The longer-term outlooks forecast us to be around normal, maybe a little below normal. In the short term, it’s done a good job in boosting the totals.”

The exception was western Montana, which did not receive the amount of rain the rest of the state did, he said.

How much relief the rain provided the driest counties was not immediately known, said Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokesman John Grassy.

Those counties are expected to report their conditions at the next Drought Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, Grassy said.

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