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Continued precipitation may keep Montana rivers high all week

The Flathead River crested over the banks in some locations following days of rain. Minor flooding closed off sections of River’s Edge Park in Columbia Falls.
Aaron Bolton
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The Flathead River crested over the banks in some locations following days of rain. Minor flooding closed off sections of River’s Edge Park in Columbia Falls.

Weather forecasters are calling for another wet week west of the Continental Divide that could keep rivers running high.

The Flathead River at Columbia Falls remains above flood stage at the 14 foot level, and Missoula meteorologists believe it may remain that way for the week.

“It looks like they're going to hold that for a while, probably like the whole week,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Kitsmiller.

Severe storms across Montana over the weekend and into Monday forced some residents to evacuate and prompted a rare closure of all entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

A snowstorm is expected to dump a foot or more of snow in northwest Montana’s higher elevations over the next couple of days. By Friday, temperatures could soar into the mid to upper 80s.

“All that new snow is going to melt and that’s part of the reason why the Flathead River’s going to stay high,” said Kitsmiller.

The weather system that drenched western Montana this weekend temporarily pushed the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers into minor flood stages.

All associated flood warnings along those rivers have been canceled. While there is still snowpack in the high country, it likely isn’t enough to tip the rivers back into flooding from snowmelt alone.

Kitsmiller said more widespread rain and thunderstorms are possible by next weekend.

Officials urge even highly skilled recreational river users to be extremely cautious on Montana’s waterways.

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