With the memories of 2011 still in my brain and the continued threat of more spring flooding occurring in the upper plains, the states of Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota are ever vigilant of increased water levels in their streams, creeks, and rivers.

Some good news happened on Tuesday when water levels began to drop on flooded rivers in Montana and Wyoming and authorities scrambled to restore road access for hundreds of people left isolated by high waters.  Recent floodwaters have damaged numerous homes and business in both states, and some Montana residents living close to the Musselshell River remained evacuated.  While in North Dakota, many waterways have reached or surpassed minor flood stages and are expected to rise through the upcoming weekend.  The continuing increase in ice jams clogging the rivers and the unusually deep frost depth (around 6 feet) has dramatically increased the chance of overland flooding, because the recent snow melt has nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, forecasters warned that rising temperatures later this week could again increase the runoff from melting snow in some areas where the winter snowpack is 118% to 159% above normal in many places.  (See below)

 

KOOTENAI RIVER BASIN IS AT 118%

FLATHEAD RIVER BASIN IS AT 129%

UPPER CLARK, FORK RIVER BASIN IS AT 151%

BITTERROOT RIVER BASIN IS AT 152%

LOWER CLARK, FORK RIVER BASIN IS AT 128%

JEFFERSON RIVER BASIN IS AT 145%

MADISON RIVER BASIN IS AT 125%

GALLATIN RIVER BASIN IS AT 140%

MISSOURI HEADWATERS IS AT 137%

HEADWATERS MISSOURI MAINSTEAM IS AT 159%

SMITH, JUDITH, AND MUSSELSHELL RIVER BASINS IS AT 152%

SUN, TETON AND MARIAS RIVER BASINS IS AT 151%

MISSOURI MAINSTEM RIVER BASIN IS AT 154%

ST. MARY AND MILK RIVER BASINS IS AT 125%

UPPER YELLOWSTONE RIVER BASIN IS AT 151%

WIND RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) IS AT 137%

SHOSHONE RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) IS AT 148%

BIGHORN RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) IS AT 149%

TONGUE RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) IS AT 136%

POWDER RIVER BASIN (WYOMING) IS AT 153%

LOWER YELLOWSTONE RIVER BASIN IS AT 141%

Taking advantage of the lull, crews hurried to shore up sandbag flood defenses around Manderson, Wyo., and Roundup, Mont.

In Richland County, two men were rescued from an ice jam after they drove up to the Yellowstone River’s edge and the water began rising too quickly for them to escape.  When local authorities decided a water rescue would be too dangerous, a helicopter from the 91st Missile Wing of North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base was called in to hoist the men to safety.  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.

In Wyoming, 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.

In Roundup, more than three dozen homes, businesses and ranches were damaged. Outside the town, as many as 400 people were cut off in rural areas after concerns over the surging Musselshell River prompted the closure of a key bridge.

There was no word on when the evacuated residents near the Musselshell could return home.  A storm that began Monday night and continued early Tuesday dumped the equivalent of an inch of rain in the Roundup area.

With cooler temperatures over the past two days, the river had fallen almost 3 feet from its Monday peak.

The National Weather Service said Montana residents should remain wary.  Temperatures were forecast to reach the 50s later this week, which could increase the runoff from melting snow.

The Montana Governor declared a flood emergency after forecasters put 30 of the state’s 56 counties under some type of high water warning.

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

 

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