Western Montana’s mountains are sitting under record snow pack, and with temperatures expected to rapidly rise into the 70’s by the end of this week, weather and government officials are keeping a wary eye out for flooding.

Hydrologist for the National Weather Service office in Missoula, Ray Nickless, said on Monday that this week will be the start of warm weather for the area.

“We’ve already seen the streams rise for the last three weeks or more at the real low elevations and now it’ll start to bump that up and start to move that up into the mid-elevation levels,” said Nickless  “Then, it will cool off, which will be good news. If we get that cooling it’ll be a good chance to bring out some of that abundant snow, and then as we go through the rest of May, we’ll just see things continue to rise.”

Nickless said all eyes are on the Clark Fork River Basin as a potential area where flooding could occur.

“The Clark Fork drainage here in Missoula is a big concern because we have so much heavy snow pack up in the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot drainage, and both those drainages just give us a lot of water,” he said. “That’s expected to exceed the flood stage here, and it’s just a matter of how high above the flood stage we will see, but that’s not going to happen this week. The anticipated flooding won’t be till later on towards the end of May and even into June.”

Director of Emergency Management for Missoula County, Adriane Beck, echoed that view, that officials are making plans for whatever may occur this spring and summer.

“We’re also watching the extended forecast with the warmer temperatures as well as the increasing snow pack up in the mountains and wondering when and how that water is going to come down into our valley,” said Beck. “As we typically see in the Missoula valley, areas that are affected by groundwater, though not necessarily considered flooding, but groundwater impacts are just as damaging. People who live in neighborhoods that have experienced flooding, we look to anticipate those conditions again.”

Beck said the prudent thing for homeowners in flood-prone areas at do is purchase flood insurance right away.

“The most prudent thing to do is to start researching to purchase flood insurance,” she said. “Flood insurance does have a 30 day waiting period, so now is the time to do that for potential impacts this spring.”

Beck said as the spring turns into summer, the flooding picture will become clearer, and when the time comes, more news on how to protect homes and property will be forthcoming from the Office of Emergency Management.


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