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President declares Montana disaster after flooding

President declares Montana disaster after flooding

The road to the Musselshell County Fairgrounds was closed due to flood water on Sunday.

HELENA — The president has signed a disaster declaration for Montana over damage caused by widespread flooding and ice jams early last month.

President Barack Obama signed the declaration Thursday that makes federal funding available on a cost-sharing basis to state and eligible local governments and some private, nonprofit organizations for repair or replacement of facilities damaged by recent flooding. The counties affected are Broadwater, Dawson, Golden Valley, Jefferson, Lake, Musselshell, Park, Pondera, Prairie, Ravalli, Richland, Rosebud, Sanders, Stillwater and Wheatland.

The declaration also makes federal funding available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

April 17, 2014 11:43 am Photos



Bullock seeks disaster declaration over flooding

Bullock seeks disaster declaration over flooding

The road to the Musselshell County Fairgrounds was closed due to flood water on Sunday.

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock is asking President Barack Obama to issue a federal disaster declaration for Montana due to widespread flooding and ice jams last month.

Bullock's letter, dated Friday, explains that unusually high amounts of precipitation fell over the winter and cold weather allowed thick ice to develop on rivers and streams so when the snow melted quickly in early March, it caused ice jams and flooding.

Bullock says the flooding caused widespread damage to roads, culverts, bridges and public buildings. He says the cost of responding to the recent flooding have exceeded the state's resources.

Fifteen counties declared an emergency or a disaster; seven towns declared an emergency while the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Blackfeet reservations also sought assistance.

Federal funds are not available to pay for private property damage.

April 14, 2014 11:29 am Photos


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Corps says plenty of room in Missouri reservoirs

Corps says plenty of room in Missouri reservoirs

An aerial view shows homes flooded on Hoge Island north of Bismarck, N.D., along the Missouri River flood plain on June 15, 2011. The Army Corps of Engineers says there’s plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff.

BISMARCK, N.D. — The Army Corps of Engineers says there is plenty of room in upper Missouri River reservoirs to handle spring runoff, but some groups are urging the agency to step up dam releases sooner rather than later.

Officials with North Dakota’s State Water Commission and a county water board in the Bismarck-Mandan area both are pushing the corps to guard against flooding like the region experienced three years ago when hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland were devastated in Missouri River states.

“Constant vigilance must be maintained,” Water Commission engineer Bruce Engelhardt said.

The corps is holding a series of public meetings in Missouri River states on its plans for managing the river this year. Meetings were held in Bismarck, N.D., and Pierre, S.D., on Wednesday. Corps officials reassured those in attendance that while mountain snowpack is about a third higher than normal, there is plenty of room for the water.

Officials forecast spring runoff at 32 million acre feet — 27 percent above average but well below the 61 million acre feet recorded in 2011. Available storage in river reservoirs is at about 53 million acre feet.

April 10, 2014 7:02 amLoading…
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Montana snowpack through March near 2011 levels

Montana snowpack through March near 2011 levels

Snow covers ponderosa pine trees along the Rimrocks after a snowfall. Another snowy month across Montana brought the statewide snowpack through March near the levels seen during the same time in 2011.

Another snowy month across Montana brought the statewide snowpack through March near the levels seen during the same time in 2011. That year, a combination of runoff, heavy rain and warmer temperatures left much of the state scrambling to respond to significant flooding.

According to the monthly water supply outlook report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman, as of April 1, Montana was at 143 percent of normal snowpack and 156 percent of the same time last year.

Statewide snowpack, at 22.2 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE), was the second-highest in 34 years of recording. In 2011, SWE over the same time was 20.9 inches.

However, the NRCS report cautioned that while levels might be slightly above those in 2011 in most areas, it doesn’t mean similar flooding will happen.

In 2011, the time after April 1 is, according to the NRCS, “where the faucet turned on,” with higher-than-usual continued snowpack increases, a handful of heavy rainstorms causing significant runoff and temperatures warming enough in May to start snowmelt and peaking later than normal in June.

April 09, 2014 5:00 pmLoading…
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Spring means possible flooding in Montana

HELENA — The Montana Department of Emergency Services reminds residents to be on guard for rapidly rising creeks, streams and rivers across the state at this time of year.

The agency says an expected warming trend over the next week, combined with above average snow pack conditions, increases the possibilities for flooding to occur.

It says residents of low-lying areas prone to flooding or near creeks, streams or rivers, need to be prepared for potential flooding.

People can contact their county or Tribal Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator for more information on specific local hazards and other information.

April 06, 2014 2:04 pmLoading…

March closes the same way it opened — with snow

March closes the same way it opened — with snow

Snow falls on the Rimrocks overlooking Billings on Monday morning. March started — and ended — with snow this year.

With the 100-inches-of-snow-in-a-single-season milestone met for the first time in Billings’ recorded history as of Monday, it can just stop snowing for a while now, right?

Probably not.

“We’re not done with the snow season yet,” said Joe Lester, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Billings office.

The snowiest season Billings has ever seen — it took that honor on March 24 after topping the old record of 98.7 inches, set in 1996-1997 — will continue for a bit longer after a March that saw just a touch above-average snow, but enough of it to set an all-time record.

By 6 a.m. Monday, the NWS recorded 1.4 inches of new snow at Billings Logan International Airport, meaning Billings officially topped the 100-inch mark for the first time since record-keeping began in 1934.

March 31, 2014 7:00 pm Photos


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FEMA to evaluate March flooding in Montana

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be arriving in Montana on Sunday to begin assessing damage statewide from flooding in early March.

The preliminary-damage teams will be looking at only public infrastructure, said Ed Tinsley, the division administrator for Montana Disaster and Emergency Services.

Lewis and Clark County did not have enough flood-related damage to meet the level required for a FEMA evaluation, Tinsley said.

Whatever damage the county had to its roads, bridges and other infrastructure was less than the amount that would qualify for a FEMA evaluation.

State DES staff will accompany the teams as they meet with county, city and tribal officials to gauge the damage. Tinsley did not have the tribal damage estimate immediately available, but said initial, rough figures from the four cities and 15 counties indicated some $2.5 million in damage.

March 29, 2014 8:49 amLoading…
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Hundreds in Wyoming face hikes in flood insurance

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Hundreds of property owners in Wyoming receiving subsidized government flood insurance will see their premiums rise at a brisk rate despite a rate relief law President Barack Obama signed Friday.

The law offers instant relief for homeowners hit by premiums that soared by thousands of dollars overnight, but allows price hikes of up to 18 percent for primary homeowners. Businesses and second homes getting subsidies will see premiums spike a mandatory 25 percent per year until they switch to a rate based on the actual risk of flooding.

More than 900 flood insurance policies in Wyoming were receiving federal discounts as of the end of 2012, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of the most recent federal data available.

Nationwide, records from the Federal Emergency Management Agency show that up to 1.1 million people hold subsidized policies that now face cost increases.

The cities of Cheyenne and Rock Springs have the greatest number of subsidized policies in Wyoming with more than 100 each. Officials in both cities say they've been successful at reducing the number of properties that require flood insurance in recent years through flood control projects.

March 24, 2014 9:40 amLoading…
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Wyoming's heavy snowpack could lead to flooding

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Forecasters say Wyoming's heavy snowpack this winter could lead to more flooding in parts of the state this spring.

Snowpack figures across the state range from 125 percent to 175 percent above normal, and the snow melt from these packs can cause flooding in some areas. Steve Rubin with the National Weather Service says he is expecting flooding in the Sierra Madres to the west and in the Snowy Range when temperatures warm up.

According to the United States Drought Monitor, at this time last year 84 percent of the state was in a severe drought. Now, no part of the state is experiencing severe drought.

Rubin says this year's wet winter could lead to an active severe weather season in April, May and June.

March 18, 2014 10:29 amLoading…

Medicine Lodge site reopens after flooding

HYATTVILLE, Wyo. — The Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site has reopened after being closed for a week due to flooding.

Heavy runoff from melting snow damaged the park's main road. State officials said the road is being repaired but visitors should be cautious around work zones.

The archaeological site is on the western slope of the Big Horn Mountains about 20 miles north of Ten Sleep. The site features a large cliff with hundreds of Native American petroglyphs and pictographs.

March 17, 2014 11:55 amLoading…

Tax relief available for flood-damaged property

The Montana Department of Revenue on Friday encouraged property owners whose homes or outbuildngs are damaged or destroyed by flooding to apply for natural disaster property tax relief.

Businesses that lose equipment to flooding or natural disaster also may qualify for relief, said Mary Ann Dunwell, a spokeswoman for the DOR.

The tax relief is prorated based on the number of days in the tax year that the property was unusable. The relief is available for the current tax year.

Property owners need to complete Form AB-25 and apply by Dec. 31 for relief. The form is available online at or at all DOR local offices.

The state’s natural disaster property tax relief also covers property damaged by avalanche, wind or other natural event.

March 14, 2014 11:26 amLoading…
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Road reopens in Musselshell County

Musselshell County officials Friday reopened Number Four Road, east of Roundup, which had been closed since Saturday because of flooding from snowmelt.

There is still water on the road and conditions are slippery, said Grace Freasier, a volunteer at Musselshell County’s Disaster and Emergency Services office. “We advise go slowly and use extreme caution,” she said.

The water level in the Musselshell River also continued decreasing and was at 5.25 feet Friday morning, Freasier said. The river peaked at 13.26 feet on Monday.

The big concern, she said, was how high mountain temperatures might get and how fast snow would melt on Sunday, which is forecast to be in the 60s.

The DES office also is advising residents to use caution when driving on secondary and private roads, which are muddy. DES will help residents needing medications if they are unable to travel the private roads because of muddy conditions, Freasier said. Residents may call DES at 406-323-2777.

March 14, 2014 10:53 am Related Loading…
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