On the Musselshell River, water levels are dropping, but officials warn that the river could rise again in coming days.

By Tuesday morning, the river level had fallen about 2 feet from Monday night.

National Weather Service forecaster Chauncy Schultz said residents should remain wary after the equivalent of an inch of rain fell Monday and Tuesday in the Roundup area.

Evacuations remain in place for some Roundup residents.

Officials are working to take advantage of the receding water to sandbag and pump Number 4 Road, which has been cut off from Roundup, stranding between 300 and 400 people.

Temperatures are forecast to reach the 50s later this week, which could increase the runoff from melting snow deposited by the latest storm to hit the region.

Yellowstone River jams

According to National Weather Service official Tanya Fransen, who came down from the Glasgow office to assist officials in Sidney, the Yellowstone River has risen five feet from last week and it could easily rise another five to 10 feet as another ice jam rumbles through.

The ice pushed water levels up eight feet in about 15 minutes on Monday morning in Glendive.

When Dawson County DES Coordinator, Mary Jo Gehnert got out of a meeting at about 7;30 a.m., the ice was breaking up quickly, she said.

“By 10 minutes to eight, it was backed up as far as you could see,” she said.

The Cottonwood Grove neighborhood was evacuated because water was covering the roads. 

“We didn’t want people trapped out there,” she said.

Thirty families lost power south of Glendive when poles carrying transmission lines were washed away.

Power was restored to half of the homes, but about 15 homes south of town were without power Monday night.

“It will be several days before they can go back and lay new poles,” she said, but officials are working on a solution as fast as they can.

Several trailer courts also were evacuated to protect property.

A significant amount of debris accompanied the water as it roared out of town by Monday evening.

“The ice was just unbelievable,” she said. “The livestock, the animals, it was just horrendous to watch.”

While the river is still running high, the ice has headed out of town. Debris and large chunks of ice are everywhere.

“We have a mess,” she said. “We’ll be picking up sticks and a lot of junk for a long time.”

"You cannot underestimate the power of that river."

An ice jam on the Yellowstone River in Richland County required a helicopter rescue of two stranded men on Monday night. 

Two men, watching the ice jams from a beet field in their pickup, were swept away by the Yellowstone River when ice broke loose and flooded the area, said Deb Gilbert, Richland County's Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator. 

By the time the call came in at 9:45 p.m., they were already 500 yards from shore. First responders determined that a boat rescue was impossible, because of the huge amount of ice and debris in the river, she said. 

A helicopter crew was called in from the Minot, N.D., Air Force base. 

It took more than four hours to get the men off the river. The two were then flown to Sidney where they were examined and released, she said. 

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Musselshell levels decrease

The flooded Musselshell River's level dropped about 2 feet from Monday night, temporarily easing worries of another round of major flooding from the latest winter storm.

Some Roundup residents remained out of their homes after warm weather over the past week unleashed large amounts of water from record snowfalls in the area, pushing many streams and rivers over their banks. Forecasters warned that rising temperatures later this week could again increase the runoff from melting snow.

Around the city of Roundup, the storm dumped the equivalent of an inch of rain.

Hundreds of residents in surrounding rural areas were cut off by impassable roads, and officials voiced concerns that a limited evacuation of the city issued over the weekend would have to be broadened.

Officials said they were keeping a close watch on ice jams along the Musselshell west of Roundup, and the Yellowstone River upstream of Miles City.

If the ice jams break free, water levels downstream could rise rapidly.

There was no word yet on how many houses and businesses suffered damage from flooding over the past week.

And although Gov. Steve Bullock has issued a flood declaration for the entire state, officials say no calls for assistance have come from local jurisdictions.

Bighorn River 

Water levels are receding in Big Horn County as ice jams begin to release.

No active flooding was reported Tuesday in Manderson but Wyoming National Guard members were still stacking up sand bags along a flood barrier to help prevent any future flooding. Sandbags helped protect the town's school and water treatment plant after the Big Horn and Nowood rivers flooded.

Six homes and two businesses suffered major damage and 11 homes had minor damage in Washakie and Big Horn counties since flooding began last week. No buildings were swept away. The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security doesn't have a breakdown yet on where the damaged home and businesses are in those counties.

Homeland security spokeswoman Kelly Ruiz says National Guard members have placed 70,000 sand bags to protect properties from flooding.



Chris Cioffi covers city news for The Billings Gazette in Montana.