Mix of weather brings flooding, slides to Montana

2014-03-06T09:09:00Z 2014-03-10T09:18:10Z Mix of weather brings flooding, slides to MontanaThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 06, 2014 9:09 am  • 

GREAT FALLS — A mix of winter weather and warming temperatures across the state led to avalanches, treacherous driving conditions, school delays and widespread flooding Thursday.

In southwestern Montana, rapid snowmelt sent water running over the highways near Boulder, Whitehall, Toston, Manhattan and Livingston. Dozens of residents of a Livingston condominium remained evacuated Thursday, while others put sandbags near their homes.

In the northwestern part of the state, a series of avalanches Wednesday night and Thursday morning blocked the BNSF Railway tracks between Ennis and Marias Pass.

BNSF spokesman Matt Jones said the railway has halted all rail traffic in the area south of Glacier National Park due to the threat of continued slides. The company received permission from park officials to conduct avalanche control in the area, which included closing U.S. Highway 2 on the southern edge of Glacier National Park for a few hours Thursday afternoon.

Track cleaning efforts had not yet begun as of mid-day, and Jones said it was unclear how long the rail line would be blocked.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the railroad will continue to bus Empire Builder passengers between stations in Shelby and Whitefish.

School buses did not run in Great Falls or Havre on Thursday morning, and several schools delayed their start time or canceled classes in the Havre area. Montana State-Northern didn't hold its first classes until 11 a.m.

Freezing rain fell across parts of north-central Montana on Thursday.

"City roads, power lines, sidewalks, everything is coated in ice," National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Brusda told the Great Falls Tribune.

Roads from Cascade north to the Canadian border and from Great Falls east to the North Dakota border were icy in the morning, but by afternoon, only highways in the Havre area were icy, according to the Department of Transportation.

The frontage road along U.S. Highway 89 east of Great Falls was closed temporarily due to a two-vehicle crash that claimed the life of a student at C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls.

In southern Montana, the National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for several areas, and local flooding was reported in 13 counties. Flood warnings were issued in Gallatin, Park counties.

The city of Livingston declared a state of emergency after melting snow flooded creeks and ditches and sent water running down city streets.

The flooding started at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, forcing dozens of residents to flee a condominium. About 50 of them remained evacuated Thursday. Residents of the south side of Livingston were encouraged to sandbag in front of their homes, and the Livingston City Center was open to those who were evacuated due to the flooding.

Warm temperatures over the past several days have caused snow from last week's strong storm to melt.

"There's nowhere for that water to go because the ground is frozen," Aaron Gilstad, a NWS meteorologist in Billings, told the Livingston Enterprise. "A lot of the culverts have frozen up, which would normally help get that water out of the area.

Lewis and Clark County commissioners declared an emergency due to flooding in the Helena Valley.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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