Flood Levels Head for 40-Year Highs – Evacuations Possible Soon
The Missoula County Office of Emergency Management called an unusual Sunday afternoon press conference to announce historic flood levels headed for western Montana in the next few days that could extend into the summer.
Addressing the media were Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott, Meteorologist LeeAnn Allegretto with the National Weather Service Office in Missoula, Deputy Director of the OEM, Ken Parks, Assistant Chief of the Missoula Fire Department, Jeff Brandt, and Missoula Rural Fire Chief, Brad Newman.
Allegretto began the press conference with the news that historic flooding is expected on the Clark Fork River, with high waters also expected on the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers, due to historically high snow pack in the surrounding mountains.
“This week is going to be interesting because we’re going to reach levels this week that we haven’t seen in some 40 years,” began Allegretto. “2011 is the most recent flood, where the Clark Fork River reached 12.72 feet, and we will get to that at the very least and possibly much higher than that. We’re preparing in our office to experience flooding in areas that we’re not even sure will flood yet because the channel of the river has changed so much since 2011, let alone 1975 which was the last time we saw it reach 13 feet.”
Allegretto said flood watches have been issued for the Bitterroot River, as well.
“We do expect that to reach minor flood stage in the next 24 to 48 hours, which will gradually increase through the coming weekend,” she said. “Once we get there, we’re staying there because we’re only now seeing the tip of what’s coming off these mountains. When the Bitterroot near Missoula reaches 12 to 13 feet, we experience flooding typically in the Doyle Slue and Red Fox Court near Lolo, and that is something we’ll have to watch for.”
“We issued a warning for the Blackfoot River this morning,” she said. “We’re expecting it to go above its minor flood stage tomorrow (Monday). I know no one wants to hear this, but we’ve got all kinds of snow to come down the headwaters of the Blackfoot and the Clark Fork, so I think this is just the beginning, and we’re going to be here for awhile.”
Sheriff McDermott said deputies will be assessing evacuation warnings today (Sunday) and will be visiting residents in affected areas starting on Monday. Anyone in a flood prone area is advised to secure their property, gather valuables and prepare to evacuate if needed. Residents are also advised to sign up for Smart 9-1-1 and provide updated contact information for emergency alerts.
It is important to stay out of flood waters, due to possible contamination by septic and sewer systems, as well as the dangers of walking, bicycling or driving on flooded streets, where currents can cause vehicles to be swept downstream.
An evacuation center has been established since late last week by the Missoula Red Cross at Christ the King Church at 1400 Gerald Street.
THERE WILL BE AN IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING MONDAY AT 6:00 P.M. AT HAWTHORNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ON 3RD STREET.
Attached, find vital information from the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management for those in flood prone areas.
The entire press conference is available on the video above.