Some Montana communities received two feet of snow over the weekend
By Diego Flammini
Some farmers are already surrounded by snow despite the fact the first day of winter is months away.
Areas of Montana received up to 40 inches of snow starting Friday and over the weekend, prompting Governor Steve Bullock to declare a state of emergency on Sunday.
The storm brought heavy and wet snow, high winds that have downed powerlines and trees, road closures and the potential for flooding.
The snowfall also abruptly suspended wheat harvest in the state.
Montana wheat farmers harvested about 80 percent of their crops, the USDA’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin said on Sept. 24.
But until some of the snow melts, machinery will sit idle, said Lyle Benjamin, a cash crop producer from Sunburst, Mont. and president of the Montana Grain Growers Association.
“I’m about two miles south of (the Alberta border) and we got about 18 inches of snow,” he told Farms.com. “Nobody is going anywhere, mail delivery is stopped, school is closed, and everything is basically shut down.”
About 80 percent of Benjamin’s wheat crop is in the bin. Combining the remaining acres will be challenging.
“The crops out in the field are going to be snowed flat and will be very difficult to pick up,” he said. “All of the equipment that’s out in the yard has probably 18 inches of snow on their roofs. We’ve had snow in September but it’s usually just an inch or two. This volume of snow is very unusual.”
For some producers, if the cold snap breaks, the heavy snow may help the soil before winter wheat seeding.
Charles Bumgarner, a cash cropper from Great Falls, Mont., is finished with spring wheat harvest and is waiting to plant winter wheat.
The snow will help soften up the soil for when the planter rolls through, he said.
“We’re still in good shape,” he said. “This storm actually wasn’t a bad thing for us. We have moisture underneath (the soil) but the top four inches or so was really dry and rough on equipment. The snow will give us the moisture we need now to have good planting conditions.”
Great Falls received 9.7 inches of snow on Saturday. That amount broke the one-day Sept. 28 snowfall record for the community. The previous record was 6.1 inches in 1954.