Montana Flood News Roundup For May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018

Cooler, wet weather is expected to start moving into Montana. MTPR's Edward O’Brien has more on how this could factor into the state’s unfolding flood crisis.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Lukinbeal says southwest Montana could get some intense thunderstorms Wednesday evening. Northwest and west central Montana could also get some light to moderate rain.

Lukinbeal says most of these storms probably won’t amount to much more than a quick shot of rain.

“There might be enough brief, heavy rain to create a response in some of those smaller streams, but the mainstem rivers are going to be fairly controlled by the snowpack."

The Weather Service says the Clark Fork River currently sits at about 12.4 feet. It’s expected to hit 13 feet – moderate flood stage – by Thursday.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued yesterday affecting about 60 Missoula homes.

Sheriff’s Captain Anthony Rio says authorities are trying to accommodate evacuees who need to check on their property.

“We’ve been working with Northwest Energy and we’re attempting to leave the power on where we can. At the same time, we want to make sure people know that if they’re in these areas where there is standing water to not touch metal fences, not touch things that are metal – anything that conducts electricity.”

Another public meeting for flood-affected residents was scheduled for 6 p.m. this evening at Missoula’s Hawthorne elementary.

The Army Corps of Engineers reports all levees in the Orchard Homes-area are holding strong.

Rio adds Seeley Lake is also holding strong, despite localized flooding.

“Around Boy Scout Road – the outlet coming out of Seeley – it’s flooding. Our Sgt. Bob Parcell, who’s been up there for almost 30 years, says he’s never seen anything like this. That’s quite concerning, but at the same time, we’ve got folks up there right now just monitoring things. Really – Seeley Lake hasn’t asked for much.” 

Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Lukinbeal says another cool, wet weather system is expected to move into the region by the weekend. That could temper the snowpack melt rate, but there’s still a lot of snow in the mountains.

Flooding will be a problem for weeks to come.

Earlier today, the National Weather Service in Great Falls issued a flood watch for the following rivers in north central and southwest Montana:

  • Big Hole River near Melrose
  • Jefferson River near Three Forks
  • Sun River near Simms
  • Sun River near Vaughn

Snowmelt combined with some periods of rain will bring increased river levels late this week through the weekend. In addition, increased flows out of area reservoirs such as Gibson Dam could also add to the river flooding potential, according to the Weather Service.

Those near area rivers should prepare to move equipment and anything of value to higher ground. Now is also the time to take protective actions against property near the mentioned rivers. Although rivers may lower early next week additional rounds of flooding are possible.

A Flood Watch continues for the Flathead River at Columbia Falls in northwest Montana. At 12 p.m. Wednesday the stage was 13.7 feet. The river will continue to rise to near 14.0 feet by Thursday, with additional rises possible thereafter. Minor flood stage is 14.0 feet.

A flood watch is also in effect for the Clark Fork River near St. Regis. At 12 p.m. Wednesday, the stage was 17.9 feet. The river is forecast to rise to near 19.0 feet on Friday, with additional rises possible thereafter.

A flood watch is in effect for the Clark Fork River near Plains. At 12 p.m. Wednesday the stage was 14.9 feet. The river is forecast to rise to near 16.0 feet on Friday, with additional rises possible thereafter. Minor flood stage is 16.0 feet.

A Flood Watch means that flooding is possible but not imminent in the watch area. Persons living along or planning activities near rivers and small streams in the watch area should continue to monitor the development of this weather situation. Be prepared to take immediate action if flooding is observed or a warning is issued.