Drought conditions seem to be gradually improving across our Treasure State. According to the National Weather Service down in Great Falls, a weak upper level high pressure ridge continued to dominate the weather over much Montana during the month of January with a northwest flow aloft prevailing over eastern Montana. Typically, the high pressure ridge is centered about 100 miles further west during January. Temperatures averaged near to above normal across much of the state. The exception was southwest Montana where cold air trapped in the valleys caused temperatures to average below normal. This was the 3rd consecutive month of above normal temperatures for the state, & the 11th of the past 13 months with above normal temperatures. January precipitation was above to well above normal in widespread areas across our Hi-Line, in south central & southeast Montana, & in smaller areas of west & southwest Montana. There were also areas west, southwest, south central & east that received below to well below normal precipitation. Since October, most of the northern 2/3 of Montana have received near to above normal precipitation. The southern 3rd continues to lag with large areas of below normal precipitation & isolated areas of well below normal precipitation. Old Mister Wind in January continued the trend set in 2012 of being generally weak being 0.5 mph below average for the month. As of February 19th, the portion of Montana in some stage of drought on the National Drought Monitor (I wish we had one of those in our back room!) was just 29%. More good news here: the Drought Outlook released February 21st shows no drought development expected through the end of May 2013 across those portions of northern & central Montana that are currently void of drought conditions on the National Drought Monitor. The Drought Outlook also indicates the drought will be ongoing with some improvement across southern Montana. Only a small portion of south central to southeast Montana is expected to see drought persistence or worsening through the end of May 2013. Anne James will be along later today (Wednesday)  on both our noon news hour & 5 o'clock news hour on KSEN/K 96 FM to update us with more weather information. Meanwhile, I'm going to go out back & check our rain gauge. See you later on another Puffman Blog.