Montana Public Radio

Montana Flood News Roundup, Monday, May 7, 2018

May 7, 2018

This post will be updated throughout the day as new information becomes available. 

Update: 4:47 p.m.

Rivers and streams across western and parts of central Montana are steadily rising as record mountain snowpack continues to melt.

It seems the passage of Montana’s seasons isn't marked so much anymore by gradually changing weather as it is natural disasters.

Last summer’s record fire season gave way to relentless snowfall, which is now leading to a flood potential the likes of which hasn’t been seen for decades in western Montana.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Lukinbeal says the Clark Fork River at Missoula reached 11.3 feet by early  Monday.

"Moderate flood stage is at 11 feet. It’s rising fairly readily and forecast to reach major flood stage at 13.4 feet Friday morning."

Lukinbeal says thunderstorms dropped anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch of rain across western Montana Sunday night. That may sound like a lot, but he says it’s really, "just a drop in the bucket. Over 90 percent of the water that’s going into streams and rivers is from the snowpack."

Missoula County Sheriff deputies go door to door warning residents of Keck Street in Missoula to be prepared to evacuate, May 7, 2018.
Credit Josh Burnham

An incident management team is now in place coordinating Missoula’s flood response. Sheriff’s deputies went door to door Monday warning over 800 residents of one of Missoula’s lowest lying areas that they need to prepare to leave now.

No mandatory evacuations had been issued yet, but sheriff’s department spokeswoman Brenda Bassett says this is serious business.

"If we thought fires were unpredictable, floods are even more unpredictable. There’s a whole science behind fires, but with flooding you just don’t know where those channels are going to go. We’re working with a lot of unknowns right now."

The Bitterroot River is also rising. The Weather Service issued warnings for the Bitterroot near Missoula, at Darby and near Victor.

Here’s Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott who says an emergency proclamation was issued on Monday, “as an advisory to our citizens and also to be more prepared for the potential for higher flood waters so that we can react and respond in a more efficient and effective manner.” 

Rising streams and rivers are also causing problems in Helena, where flood waters cancelled classes at Rossiter elementary on Monday and Tuesday.

Update: 11:47 a.m.

Flood warnings were issued this morning for Missoula and Lewis and Clark Counties.

A Facebook post from the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office says that deputies are now going door to door to let people in flood prone areas know that they are now under an evacuation warning. The area includes houses north of third street, primarily west of Hiberta street.

The Missoula County Sheriff's Office is warning some Missoula residents to be prepared to evacuate due to rising flood waters on the Clark Fork River.
Credit Missoula County Sheriff's office

Residents are not being evacuated at this time, but being given, “an opportunity for self-evacuation and to make final preparations to safeguard property and move any pets of livestock."

Missoula County is holding a public meeting at 6:00 tonight at Hawthorne Elementary school to address questions about flooding.

The Helena Independent Record is reporting that the National Weather Service this morning upgraded a flood advisory to a warning for locations along Ten Mile, Seven Mile and Prickly Pear creeks.

Montana Disaster and Emergency Services says the Clark Fork is expected to hit major flood level as soon as tomorrow (Tue 5/8). That’s a level not seen in since the mid-1970s. Missoula fire reports that as many as 1,400 homes may be impacted.

DES says Missoula County requested an incident management team, and that it will come on duty today to take responsibility for flood response.

In Sanders County, the Army Corps of Engineers will today start helping repair a damaged levee that protects the Plains sewage lagoons.