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Montana Flood News Roundup For May 10, 2018

Clark Fork River in Missoula, May 9, 2018.
Josh Burnham
Clark Fork River in Missoula, May 9, 2018.

Update: 9:25 p.m. 

New evacuations due to flooding have been ordered near Missoula tonight. According to a post from the Missoula County Sheriffs Office, "three homes on Harper’s Bridge Road are now under an evacuation order, while 10 additional homes on Harper’s Bridge Road have been put in evacuation warning. A road block has been established on Harper’s Bridge Road and Lavoie."

The Clark Fork River at Missoula now sits at just over 13 feet.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless says it’s not going to sit still.

“We haven’t seen the Clark Fork above the 13 foot level since 1981. This is the highest flow in the past 40 years. We’ve already surpassed the 2011 flood here in Missoula.” 

Evacuation orders were issued for 60 homes earlier this week in Missoula’s Orchard Homes neighborhood, but many residents opted to stay put. No additional orders have been issued according to county Emergency Management Director Adriane Beck.

“We’re reacting to where the Clark Fork goes. Decisions about whether to do a mandatory evacuation or not will be based solely on public safety. It’s a situation that we’re continually monitoring and we’ll react to as necessary.”

The National Weather Service predicts the Clark Fork will reach the 13.5 feet mark by Saturday, then crest with anticipated cooler temperatures. Nickless says that will temporarily slow the melt of the record snowpack that’s still in the mountains.

“We had the big flood in ’97. We had the big flood in 2011 and this is surpassing that. This is as extreme as I’ve seen it. This is going to be one of the top floods of the last 100 years.”

Nickless says temperatures will cool into the 50s this weekend, but bounce back into the 70s by the start of the new work week. Forecasters also are calling for widespread rain next week.

Measurements suggest there’s still 50 to 60 inches of water content in the mountain snowpack.

Flood warnings are in effect across western Montana as waters continue to rise. A river Flood Warning means flooding is expected to impact people and property in the warned area, according to the National Weather Service.

The flood warnings for the Clark Fork River include areas near Missoula, St. Regis and Plains, where water is expected to continue rising through Saturday.

On the Bitterroot River a flood warning is in place near Missoula, and at Bell Crossing near Victor. The river has already surpassed the 11 feet flood stage, and is expected to reach 12 feet by Saturday.

In Lincoln County, minor flooding is occurring on the Yaak River near Troy, where a flood warning is in effect. The river is expected to recede below minor flood stage by Friday.

In north central Montana, there's flooding along Deep Creek from the Missouri River upstream along U.S. Hwy 12 to at least Ross Gulch Road. Other area creeks such as may also run high. Property andvaluable equipment near the river will become impacted as creeks rise.

Minor flooding is also forecast for the Shields River near Livingston. The river is expected to crest above flood stage by Friday.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
(406) 243-4065
Josh Burnham is MTPR's digital editor. He works on the news team and as a content strategist managing the station's website, podcasts, email newsletters and social media.
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