At a public meeting on Sunday at Hawthorne Elementary School, Director of Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Management, Adriane Beck said the worst is over for those evacuated from their homes due to the flooded Clark Fork River.

“Our every intention and what we are discussing here today is what that return process looks like,” Beck said. “We have to get in there and evaluate from a public health and safety standpoint which structures are substantially damaged and which ones may need some attention before people should be allowed back into those homes, we’ll be start that process tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.”

County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said many representatives from county agencies were on hand for Sunday’s meeting, to provide vital information to residents.

“The health department, the county building departments are here, such that they will begin exterior inspections of some of the impacted homes to get a sense of what damage is out there and whether some of these places are safe to get back into,” said Strohmaier. “If power lines or gas lines are exposed, Northwestern Energy needs to know about that and those dangers need to be mitigated.”

Jacqueline Baldwin-LeClair with the American Red Cross said they will be participating in the inspections.

“We look at the FEMA standards regarding what part of the home was destroyed, and that varies depending on the type of structure,” said Baldwin-LeClair. “We’re just making sure that it’s safe for people to habitate and see what level of repairs is needed, and that will determine the classification.”

Marty Whitmore with the National Weather Service said the Clark Fork has been out of flood stage since Friday, and that the bulk of the mountain snowpack has already gone into the river, so even though levels should remain high for a while, the worst is over.

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