Montana Public Radio

Clark Fork River

Flooding in Missoula along the north end of Tower Street, May 7, 2018.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

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.

Flood outlook for the Clark For River near Missoula.
National Weather Service

Western Montana’s flood waters receded a little bit Thursday, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. Warmer temperatures are on the horizon, and there’s more snowpack left in the mountains. Lots more.

The Clark Fork River near the University of Montana Campus, April 30, 2018.
Josh Burnham / MTPR

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.

Warm temperatures will bring increased snowmelt through the weekend. This, coupled with the widespread rainfall forecast across the Northern Rockies late Saturday through Monday, will bring rapid rises in water levels into early next week.
National Weather Service Missoula

The National Weather Service predicts western Montana is going to have a long and active flood season this year, and flood season could soon get off to a not-so-slow build.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless says Friday is expected to bring some of the warmest temperatures of the year to western Montana, with highs pushing 80 degrees.

Snow water equivalent, basin percentage of normal, Feb. 1, 2018.
Natural Resources Conservation Service

The National Weather Service says there's a 70 percent chance of flooding in the Clark Fork and Flathead River valleys this spring.

"Probably not a bad idea to start thinking about sandbags," National Weather Service hydrologist Ray Nickless says in a youtube video posted today.

About 30 coal cars in a Montana Rail Link freight train derailed this weekend along the Clark Fork River in northwestern Montana.

MRL spokesman Joe Lewis says the derailment happened at about 11 p.m. Sunday near Noxon, just east of the Idaho border.

Man fishing in the Yellowstone River.
Flickr user: Mirrur Image (CC-BY-NC)

Warm water temperatures have triggered fishing restrictions on a 55 mile stretch of the Bitterroot River from Veteran’s Bridge on Highway 93 just north of Hamilton, downstream to the confluence with the Clark Fork in Missoula. The so-called ‘Hoot Owl’ restriction went into effect today.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Missoula-area Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel says those restrictions go into effect when river temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three days in a row.

North American river otters.
Dmitry Azovtsev (CC-BY-SA-3)

At the end of last summer, as I sat in an eddy on the Clark Fork River, something furry and black caught my eye, moving as smoothly as the water itself. I was looking at a North American river otter. Remembering studying sea otters in elementary school, I wondered if I had just seen something rare for this region, and decided to do a little research.

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)

The EPA gave an update Tuesday on their ongoing investigation of pollution levels at the now-defunct Smurfit-Stone pulp and paper mill just west of Missoula.

There’s still a lot to figure out at the former Smurfit-Stone mill in Frenchtown.

The plant that operated on the 3,200 acre site for over 50 years just downstream of Missoula on the Clark Fork River used all kind of hazardous chemicals.

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)

People concerned about the contaminated Smurfit-Stone paper mill site west of Missoula are meeting tonight in Frenchtown at 6:00 p.m. They're considering forming a Community Advisory Group to better communicate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The 3,200 acre Smurfit-Stone site was proposed for listing under the EPA's Superfund program in 2013 over concerns about soil and groundwater contamination.

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