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Flooding Begins In Missoula, Helena And Lincoln

The Clark Fork River near the University of Montana Campus, April 30, 2018.
Josh Burnham
The Clark Fork River near the University of Montana Campus, April 30, 2018. The river has flooded parts of Missoula further west.

The weekend’s cold front dropped a lot of rain over western Montana and sent the Clark Fork into a minor flood stage by mid-morning Sunday.

According to Missoula National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Nester says the river was expected to reach moderate flood stage by Tuesday evening.

"Minor flood stage is at 10.0 feet and we’re currently at 10.6 feet," said Nester. "The last time we’ve had flooding this high was in 2011 when it reached 12.72 feet."

Flood waters have risen in some of Missoula’s lowest-lying areas, including the Orchard Homes neighborhood.

Missoula County has a limited number of free, unfilled sandbags available to the public. Sand is for sale at several local retailers. More details on sandbagging techniques can be found here.

Flooding is also causing problems in other places including Helena and Lincoln. Lincoln Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Zach Muse says the Blackfoot River is running pretty high.

"It’s kind of out of its banks here just south of Lincoln at Stemple Bridge," said Muse. "Our new river park is now an actual river park – it’s underwater. Stemple Pass Road has a spot that’s kind of washing out. People can still get across, but it’s getting worse by the day."

Muse cautions everyone to respect running water. He says it just takes four inches to sweep away a car.

"One minute it’s two inches of water running across and everything’s fine," said Muse. "You come back a little bit later and it looks the same, but the road’s been washed out underneath and there’s an 8-inch drop off. You don’t know it and you hit that and you’re going to have some issues."

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region One spokesman, Dillon Tabish says high water is also pouring into northwest Montana’s rivers and streams.

"Frequently when the water starts rushing down, it starts taking trees and logs which can clog up some of our channels," said Tabish. "Those create very significant hazards for boats, for anglers – you definitely don’t want to be in the water right now."

Forecasters say temperatures are expected to warm into the 70s by the end of the work week, followed by another round of cool and possibly wet weather by the weekend.

Find more information on flood preparedness in Montana here

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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