January 1998


COMMUNITY DESCRIPTION: Missoula is situated in the heart of the Montana Rocky Mountains near the convergence of five valleys and three rivers (Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot), just 60 miles west of the Continental Divide. The valley is encompassed by heavily forested mountains and numerous streams.

The "Missoula Valley" is an ancient lake bed, once the home of buffalo and Native Americans. The valley floor averages 3,200 feet and is surrounded with mountains rising in excess of 9,000 feet.

Missoula has developed into a rapidly growing community of 51,204 residents with 88,523 residents in the primary trade area (Missoula County). The city has become a focal point for western Montana's commercial, industrial, education, medical, and transportation needs.

The surrounding forests provide the wood for the basic industry of the area. The larger plants located in or near Missoula are a pulp and paper mill, two plywood mills, two large sawmills, and two particle board plants. In relation to the timber industry, Missoula is the Headquarters for the Region 1, US Forest Service, the Northern Forest Fire Laboratory and the State Forestry of Montana.

CLIMATE: The Continental Divide to the east and the Bitterroot Range to the south have a marked effect on the climate. Much moisture is left on the western slopes of the Bitterroot Range and very little reaches the Missoula Valley. Although the surrounding mountains receive about 40 inches or more of precipitation annually, the Missoula Valley has a semi-arid climate with an average rainfall of 13.4 inches. Cold air is often shielded by the Divide, and infrequently reaches the area. Missoula is called the "Garden City" due to its relatively mild climate. There are about 137 growing days per year. The four seasons are evident. Spring months are cool with frequent showers in May and June, the wettest months. The summer and early fall months are very pleasant with warm days and cool nights. The normal July maximum temperature is 85 degrees with 50s at night. Winter is mostly cloudy, but seldom really cold. The average snowfall is 43 inches, and January, the coldest month, has a normal high of 29 with a low of 14. There are rare, brief periods of sub-zero weather. Sunshine is limited to about 30 percent of the time. Pacific high pressure tends to dominate the region's winter weather which sets up strong inversions. Calm winds and cold air entrap the valley resulting in air stagnation and episodes of air pollution.

CHURCHES: There are 58 Protestant, 9 Catholic and 13 Other Churches/Organizations.

EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES: There are numerous education facilities throughout the Missoula Valley. Public schools include 16 elementary and 4 high schools along with the University of Montana (enrollment 11,525) and the U of M College of Technology (enrollment 750). Private schools include 8 elementary and 3 high schools.

RECREATION: Recreation and cultural activities abound with 10 health clubs, 9 swimming pools, 6 golf courses, 30 tennis courts, 3 bowling centers, 51 parks, 11 movie theaters, 2 ski areas, ice skating rinks, 6 theatrical playhouses, 7 museums, 26 art galleries, 4 symphonies/orchestras and 2 public libraries.

Basically anything you want, you can find it here. State and National Forests and Parks, 8 wilderness areas and many river and streams are close by. Recreational activities include: camping, boating, rafting, hiking, backpacking, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing. Between one and two hours away is Flathead Lake, the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi and Glacier National Park.

Missoula has 40 hotels and motels with 2,500 rooms. There is also a wide variety of restaurants, 10 outdoor shopping centers and an indoor shopping mall with 105 stores. There is a daily newspaper and 3 weekly newspapers, five AM and seven FM radio stations, 4 local television stations, and 3 cable TV services.

Other services include: 5 banks, 3 savings and loan firms, 3 credit unions, 2 regional hospitals, 259 physicians and 60 dentists.

HOUSING: There are numerous places to live in the Missoula Valley as well as the Bitterroot Valleys and surrounding communities. In Missoula the average selling price of a home is $121,215. The average monthly rent of a 2 bedroom, unfurnished apartment, excluding all utilities except water is $569.

TAXES: There is no sales tax in Montana, but property and personal income taxes are high. Property tax within the city is approximately 1.5% of home value. Personal income tax is 8%.

TRANSPORTATION: The Johnson-Bell International Airport is located five miles west of Missoula. Five airlines (Big Sky, Alaska/Horizon, Delta, Northwest and Skywest) and two charter air services are available. There are five bus lines, one local city bus service, one taxi service and one airport shuttle service.

STATION LOCATION: The station is located at the US Forest Service Aerial Fire Depot, 6 miles northwest of Missoula and mile west of the Johnson-Bell International Airport. The NWS quarters are adjacent to the Smokejumper's Training Facility. A remotely controlled WSR-88D weather radar is located on Point Six Mountain, 9 air miles north of the station.

STATION PROGRAMS: Missoula's area of responsibility includes 14 counties in western Montana and central Idaho for which public forecasts and warning are issued. The aviation program consists of 2 TAFs and 1 TWEB (eventually 3 TAFs and 2 TWEBs). The hydrological services area encompasses western Montana west of the Continental Divide and central Idaho. This hydrological program is quite active in the late spring and early summer and on occasions in the winter with ice jams. The fire weather program is quite active in the summer with wildfire and prescribed burn weather forecasts, averaging 350 spot forecasts a year. The fire weather area of responsibility encompasses western and central Montana and northern and central Idaho. This includes Region 1 of the US Forest Service, 13 National Forests, Glacier National Park, three Indian Reservations, and the Bureau of Land Management. Two fire weather mobile units are used to furnish forecasting services on large wildfires.