RSSSpecial Section: Flooding
A deluge that soaked much of the Montana Hi-Line with as much as eight inches of rain earlier this month caused record flooding that had some areas still under water on Friday.
"The good news is things are not getting worse," said Tanja Fransen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Glasgow. "They are gradually improving."
From Aug. 21 through 25, heavy storms dropped four to eight inches of rain from Glasgow to Malta, swelling streams and rivers to the point of spilling over their banks and into the surrounding areas, including over roads and into homes and buildings.
"As far as the flood goes nothing tragic happened that I know of except for lots of dollars in damage," said Paul Tweten, Valley County road supervisor.
The flooding on the Milk River started in tributaries before spreading to the river itself.
What makes the Yellowstone River so special? Perhaps it's because the Yellowstone is the longest free-flowing river in the continental United States.
The Yellowstone’s 671-mile journey begins from headwaters in northwestern Wyoming, enters Yellowstone National Park and flows into Montana near Gardiner. From there, the river runs across south central and Eastern Montana, ending downstream from Sidney where it enters the Missouri River in North Dakota.
For more than 70 miles, the Yellowstone travels through Yellowstone County, where the river played a key role in the founding of Billings more than 100 years ago.
The Yellowstone continues to shape and influence development of Montana’s largest urban area. A 2013 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau pegged the countywide population at 154,162 people.
While offering fishing, boating and other recreational opportunities, the river's also a workhorse that drives the local economy.
WEST GLACIER — Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park wasn’t open long before what little traffic might have been on it was being delayed.
An 800-pound boulder — and a “large pile of snow” — fell onto the road approximately 1 1/2 miles west of Logan Pass late Wednesday.
Park dispatch received a report that the boulder and snow were blocking the westbound lane at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
After three months of plowing operations, Going-to-the-Sun had opened for the first time in 2014 just 2 1/2 hours earlier.
Glacier spokeswoman Denise Germann said road crews had the boulder and snow removed by 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
OMAHA, Neb. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shouldn't be blamed for causing major flooding along the Missouri River that has affected five states regularly since 2006, the federal government says in its initial response to a lawsuit.
More than 200 landowners claimed in their March lawsuit that they should be compensated for the extensive damage they experienced - particularly during the extended 2011 flooding that devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
When the Corps decides how to manage the Missouri River's reservoirs, officials balance flood control and other potential uses of the river, including barge traffic, hydropower, recreation and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. The landowners say the government is putting less emphasis on flood control because of efforts to restore habitat for endangered species.
Government lawyers deny that in a 56-page response filed Thursday. They argue that authorities never promised to stop all flooding on the Missouri River, and that providing habitat for endangered species didn't exacerbate flooding.
"The system does not guarantee a flood-free zone in the Missouri River reaches between the system reservoirs and below the system," the government's lawyers wrote. "Downstream flooding will occur even if releases are reduced to minimums from the system dams because enough uncontrolled area exists downstream from several of the dams to cause major flooding if significant rainfall occurs."
KALISPELL — Parts of Glacier National Park are reopening after being closed by heavy rain this past week.
The St. Mary Campground was closed but is now open with limited camp sites available.
The Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. has resumed tours on Waterton Lake to Glacier Park's Goat Haunt, where the dock was damaged due to high water.
It is expected that Kintla Lake will be accessible this weekend. The road leading there was closed at the head of Big Prairie due to high water.
And plow crews are expected to renew their efforts on Going-to-the-Sun Road starting Sunday. The road had avalanches in the Haystack and Alps areas, where replowing will be necessary to get back to work at Logan Pass.
MISSOULA — Heavy snowfall in Glacier National Park has limited access to some roads and trails because of avalanche danger.
Park officials closed the Going-to-the-Sun Road above the Loop on Friday after seeing slides near Haystack Butte and the Alps area of the upper road. The slides started high on the Garden Wall and continued over and below the road.
Plowing work on the road was suspended on Tuesday after the high country got more than 14 inches of snow. A work crew at the Sperry Chalet area above Lake McDonald reported more than 20 inches of new snow at the historic building.
Starting Saturday, hikers and bikers may be allowed above the Loop, although they are advised to use caution for falling snow, rock and debris. Motorists must stop at the Avalanche Campground on the park’s west side. Cars can travel as far as the Rising Sun area on the east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road, and may be able to reach the Jackson Glacier Overlook by Sunday. The road between Rising Sun and Jackson is only a rough gravel surface.
The St. Mary Campground near the east entrance of the park remains closed due to high water and flooding damage. Kintla Lake Road is blocked at the head of Big Prairie, seven miles north of Polebridge, due to standing water on the road.
KALISPELL — The rain is tapering off after dumping up to 8 inches over parts of Glacier National Park this week, but the extra water running off the mountains means the threat of flooding will remain.
The National Weather Service has extended a flood warning for Glacier County east of the park until Friday evening.
All that precipitation is expected to come off the mountains and cause already swollen waterways to rise even higher.
Park officials warn of debris, snow and mud slides, and say the avalanche danger is high along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The Milk and Two Medicine Rivers, along with Divide, Cut Bank and Swiftcurrent creeks are all above flood level, and are expected to fall below flood stage over the next day or two.
When Aubree Cunningham and her husband purchased their home at 803 N. 24th St., they saw it as an opportunity.
"(It's) a neighborhood going through a revitalization," she said.
The Cunninghams have worked to update the 100-year-old home, completing several repairs including a costly foundation stabilization project.
"We spent $13,100 last year," she said.
While the Cunninghams' home is slowly getting upgrades, their street's storm drains are not. Every time a storm dumps more than a few tenths-of-an-inch of rain on Billings, the drains back up and water pools in the yards of her and her neighbors.
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.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Most major rivers in Wyoming have fallen below flood stage.
Only the North Platte in Carbon County and the Laramie River in Albany County remain above flood stage. And both of those rivers are receding.
The National Weather Service says the Laramie River at Laramie should drop below flood stage on Sunday.
While the water levels are receding, many rivers and streams around the state are running high from melting mountain snow.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Forecasters are expecting the North Platte River to reach record levels this weekend in Carbon County.
The National Weather Service projects the river will hit 10.5 feet on Saturday afternoon in Saratoga. The record peak there is 10.5 feet, set in 2011.
About 25 miles downstream near Sinclair, the river is expected to come close, but not hit, the record 11-foot mark.
The North Platte is about a foot and a half above flood stage now because of melting mountain snow and recent rain. While low-lying areas have been flooded, volunteers, Wyoming National Guard members and others have prevented major property damage by piling sandbags to protect homes and businesses.
Friday’s weather may be the calm before the storm. The National Weather Service said conditions are developing that could bring severe weather on Saturday, with thunderstorms capable of producing wind gusts of 74 mph and higher, baseball-sized hail and possibly tornados east of Billings.
The storms also could produce heavy rain, which will add to already swollen creeks and streams. Rivers are continuing to run high from mountain snowmelt.
The agency is advising the public to monitor flood forecasts, watches and warnings through the weekend. A flood watch is in effect for the Billings area.
Skies will be partly sunny on Friday in the Billings area with a high of 75 degrees forecast along with a 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms. The chance for thunderstorms will continue Friday night. The low will be about 49 degrees.
Saturday’s high will be about 76 degrees with mostly cloudy skies and a 60 percent chance of precipitation along with scattered showers and thunderstorms. Some storms could be severe with large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain. The low will be about 55 degrees with the chance of severe storms continuing.
Flood 2011 Archives
- North Platte predicted to reach record level
- Warm temperatures for Friday but storms forecast for Saturday
- Billings couple forced to leave their home as the Yellowstone River rages dangerously close
- Livingston sees high water; Yellowstone likely to crest Friday
- Pompeys Pillar National Monument preparing for flooding
- Billings heats up, as flood warnings continue
- Rivers on the rise as higher temps bring snow out of mountains
- Crews work to protect Wyoming town from river
- Yellowstone River rising quickly; Rain in the forecast
- Warmer temperatures, flooding possible
- County offering sand, sandbags in advance of flood risk
- Minor flooding in Wyoming from snowmelt
- High potential for spring flooding near Cody
- Big snowpack means potential flooding in Wyoming
- President declares Montana disaster after flooding
- Bullock seeks disaster declaration over flooding
- Corps says plenty of room in Missouri reservoirs
- Montana snowpack through March near 2011 levels
- Spring means possible flooding in Montana
- March closes the same way it opened — with snow
- FEMA to evaluate March flooding in Montana
- Hundreds in Wyoming face hikes in flood insurance
- Wyoming's heavy snowpack could lead to flooding
- Medicine Lodge site reopens after flooding
- Tax relief available for flood-damaged property
- Road reopens in Musselshell County
- Lawmakers seek Missouri River flood prep details
- Volunteer firefighter uses personal drone to keep tabs on Bighorn River flooding
- Ice jam requires helicopter rescue; levels decreasing on Musselshell
- Bullock declares flood emergency; Carbon County offers sand, bags
- 4.5 million gallons of water roaring through Roundup every minute, USGS says
- National Guard, Corps of Engineers respond to Bighorn River flooding
- Flood advisories issued for parts of Wyoming
- Residents scramble to safety after ice jam sends water rushing
- Corps says repeat of 2011 Missouri River flooding is unlikely
- Cooler temperatures to slow snow melt
- Flooding washes bridge away from road near Ryegate; ice jams in Stillwater County
- Livingston declares state of emergency
- Minor flooding in western Wyoming
- Ice jams flooding fishing access sites
- Landowners file lawsuit over Missouri River floods
- Forecasters warn of flooding, avalanche threat in Western Montana
- Area snowpack mostly ahead of norm
- Laurel riverbank work nears completion; new boat ramp installed
- Wyoming Guard activated to support flooding in Colorado
- Flood warnings flow in Wyoming as heavy rains fall
- A year after fire, floods test rural Roundup residents
- Flood-damaged Bannack State Park reopens to public Monday
- Bannack ranger looks for silver lining in flooded ghost town
- Obama signs disaster declaration for Montana floods
- Bullock seeks federal assistance for Montana flood damage
- Poplar water service still down after flooding
- Flooding, contamination cuts off water service to Poplar
- Thunderstorms, strong winds expected Friday across Billings region
- Initial estimates put flooding damage at $2.85M
- Tribe estimates flooding damage at more than $1M
- Heavy rains cause flash flooding near Roundup on Sunday
- Rains cause minor flooding as wet May wraps up
- Rain forecast for Friday in Billings region, tapering off for weekend
- Minor flooding across Montana reported after days of rain
- No flooding so far in annual Wyoming runoff
- BNSF proposes Yellowstone River projects after bank work
- Laurel couple sues FEMA over flood claim
- Clarks Fork River floods south of Laurel
- Musselshell County gets big lift from volunteers, officials
- Corps: Missouri River states can help improve flood forecasting
- Wyoming gets federal funds for flood damages
- Huntley Irrigation gets $1.8 million from FEMA
- Warm weather in Wyoming could cause ice jam flooding
- Jackson told to be alert for minor flooding
- Corps forecasts normal runoff in Missouri River basin this spring
- Warm weather, rain lead to ice jams, flooding in Helena Valley
- Townsend flooding receding
- Ice jam season just beginning; floods reported at Townsend
- Townsend officials continue to assess floodwater situation; roads closed
- Missouri River management plan for 2012 released
- Wet year could prompt more early releases from reservoirs
- 2011 saw ominous amounts of snow, devastating flooding when it all melted
- A long road of flood repairs still ahead for Montana
- 2011 Year In Review: Water claims lives, homes, roads
- Panel says corps not to blame for Missouri flooding
- Senators seek audit of Missouri River flooding response
- Lawmakers criticize Missouri River flood response
- Lodge Grass slowly recovers after difficult string of events
- Corps changing Missouri River plan after flooding
- Iowa, Nebraska withdraw from Missouri River group over dispute with Montana
- Early forecast calls for another round of heavy snowpack
- Montana governor makes offer to downstream states
- Gazette opinion: Missouri River plan must protect Montana values
- Governors at odds over Missouri River management