Hundreds of Missoula residents were ordered to evacuate due to floodwaters caused by melting snow. The worst of the flooding affected Clark Fork River, which runs through the center of the town.
According to Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett, 1,300 homes along the waterway were asked to prepare for possible evacuations while those who could leave were requested to evacuate as soon as the could.
Some residents are worried the dike may fail and make matters worse.
Missoula County Disaster and Emergency Services deputy coordinator Ken Parks have asked residents to be prepared. “If you live anywhere near a stream or waterway in western Montana, you need to be prepared to leave your home.”
At least one school in Helena was closed until further notice. Water from the Tenmile Creek has also entered a number of homes and officials in Lewis and Clark County have already distributed nearly 40,000 sandbags to residents in preparation of the floods, Emergency Coordinator Reese Martin told Governor Steve Bullock in a briefing last April 8. County officials have also rented two 8-inch pumps to divert some of the water.
To the south of Missoula, officials have declared an emergency for Ravalli County as preparations are made for flooding. According to the National Weather Service, water from the Flathead and Yaak rivers in northwestern Montana are also expected to spill and cause minor flooding near Troy.
In an interview with the Missoulian, National Weather Service meteorologist LeeAnn Allegretto said packed snow from 5,000 feet and above are beginning to melt. Because of this, the Clark Fork River is expected to continue to rise and approach record levels unseen since 1981 and eclipse the peak height of the 2011 flood. “It’s only the tip of what’s coming off the mountains,” Allegretto told the Missoulian. If that happens, the resulting flood could affect at least 800 homes from eastern Missoula to the west, where the Clark Fork meets the Bitterroot River.
The flooding around Missoula is expected to continue for a week or longer, the weather service said.
With warmer days ahead, rain and thawing snow are expected to contribute to severe flooding not just in Montana, but in other states as well. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are the most common and costly natural disaster in the United States. If you and your family are living in a flood-prone area, here are some tips that you can check out in case you’re caught in a flood.