KALISPELL — A spring deluge that has dumped nearly 5 inches of rain and more than a foot of snow in parts of Glacier National Park has tourists seeking cover and rivers spilling over their banks from the mountain runoff.
The storm has pounded northern Montana over the past two days, and the National Weather Service issued a flood warning Wednesday for a broad swath of territory from the northern Rocky Mountain Front to east of Cut Bank.
A winter storm warning was issued for higher elevations, and more than 14 inches of snow had already fallen at the Sperry Chalet in the park east of Lake McDonald, Glacier spokeswoman Denise Germann said
Three to 6 inches of additional rain was expected to fall through Thursday, along with another 4 to 8 inches of snow at elevations above 6,500 feet, forecasters said.
Tourists hunkered down in lodges, snow plowing crews stood down, workers laid out sandbags, and park officials prepared for possible evacuations from administrative and employee housing areas near St. Mary, Germann said.
Park officials closed St. Mary Ncampground and a nearby trail on the eastern side of the park, along with the Kintla Lake area on the western side.
“We’re definitely seeing lots of water in the park,” she said. “It’s moving fast, it’s cold, it’s challenging to cross hiking and driving.”
Glacier is at its busiest in July and August, but the summer tourist season gets underway in June. More than 513,000 people visited the park in June 2013.
A clerk at the Many Glacier Hotel told the Daily Inter Lake the lodge was nearly full. Guests crowded around the fire in the lobby as snow fell outside Tuesday and the nearby Swiftcurrent Creek was rising after more than 4 inches of rain fell over two days.
Officials also are keeping an eye on the rising Divide Creek and the North Fork of the Flathead River on the park’s western border, Germann said.