Minor flooding across Montana reported after days of rain

2013-05-30T13:10:00Z 2013-06-09T20:11:18Z Minor flooding across Montana reported after days of rainBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A handful of areas in south-central and southeastern Montana reported flooding Wednesday and Thursday after heavy rains drenched the region with as much as 3.5 inches since Tuesday.

While mostly minor, much of the flooding had subsided by Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.

Musselshell County saw "a little bit of flash flooding" Wednesday on the western side of the area blackened last summer by the Dahl fire, and water ran deep along the sides of some roads in the area, said Jeff Gates, the county's disaster and emergency services (DES) coordinator.

"It didn't really wash anything out, but there's a lot of erosion along the sides of the roads and there's a lot of water there, but it's still passable," he said.

No evacuations have been ordered and residents were advised to stay home or, if they're already out of town, avoid the area until the water goes down.

The Musselshell River, which buried part of Roundup in water two summers ago after heavy rains, remained well below flood stage as well.

In nearby Rosebud County, a little water ran over Highway 39 after a drain plugged, but officials managed to get it cleared out quickly.

"We've had some (flooding), but everything is holding very, very well," said Carol Raymond, Rosebud County DES coordinator. "So far everything's doing wonderfully."

Duane Winslow, who runs Yellowstone County DES, said a temporary culvert at the Robindale Bridge in Blue Creek washed out, forcing the road to close.

However, much of the water isn't coming from Blue Creek itself.

"The creek itself is actually holding the water pretty well," he said. "It's more coming down from the hills, off of the fields and towards people's houses. But we're having the sheriff's office and the road department drive the area to check on it."

In northern Custer County, about 3 feet of water ran over Highway 49 because of flooding on Sand Creek northeast of Miles City, according to the weather service.

Even though the heaviest rains have probably already hit the Billings area -- dropping 2.69 inches north of town since May 28 -- meteorologist Tom Humphrey with the NWS in Billings said the area should see rain through Friday.

"It's a stubborn storm and it's slow moving," he said. "It'll eventually kick east on Friday, but the rain won't taper off until Friday night and we could get another inch or two locally."

Rain is likely to be heaviest in southeastern and Eastern Montana through Friday

By Thursday morning, NWS officials reported nearly 2 inches near Hardin, more than 2 near Red Lodge, 2.74 inches at Plevna, 2.8 at Melstone, 3.21 inches southwest of Volborg in Powder River County and a whopping 3.42 inches a mile north of Colstrip.

While the rains haven't caused major flooding, officials warned that the ground is nearing its saturation point, meaning streams and creeks could spill over given the right conditions.

"It just depends on how much more rain we get and at what rate," Gates said. "If we're at a half-inch of new rain in 15 or 20 minutes, it could happen."

Humphrey said said that creeks and streams are already starting to respond since the ground has absorbed so much water.

"The ground's pretty much saturated now so the streams and creeks are responding and we might see more of that tonight and tomorrow," he said. "The bigger rivers, like the Tongue, Powder and Yellowstone, those are doing quite well, though."

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