With dozens of Missoula homes already evacuated, forecasters were concerned that additional rainfall would worsen flooding as water levels continued to rise at swollen rivers in western Montana.
Evacuation orders were issued Tuesday for about 60 homes in the Orchard Homes neighborhood of Missoula, according to KPAX.com. Some of the worst impacts from the flooding occurred along the Clark Fork River, which runs through the center of the town of more than 70,000.
With rain in the forecast Thursday and Friday, officials were aware that the weather could cause even more problems for the swollen Clark Fork River, which was expected to reach major flood stage above Missoula Thursday night and remain there for days.
“The water locked in snowpack in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin remains 38 percent above average for the second week of May, according to NRCS SNOTEL estimates,” said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. “That remaining snowmelt, plus a chance of rain and a few thundershowers through Friday, will keep the Clark Fork River in Missoula well above flood stage into at least next week, if not beyond.”
Missoula County authorities have started pulling mobile homes out of the flooded Clark Fork River near Schmidt Road because of concerns they could float downstream and damage bridges and other property. @MissoulaCounty photo #mtfloods#MTwx pic.twitter.com/BpNIq0yZKi
— dennisbragg (@dennisbragg) May 10, 2018
Along the waterway, as many as 1,300 homes were notified to prepare for possible evacuations, and those who could leave were being urged to evacuate and not wait for the evacuations to become mandatory, Missoula County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Brenda Bassett told the Associated Press.
“I’m scared to death I’m going to lose our home and all of our memories,” Missoula resident Mary Sackett, 61, told officials during a Monday night gathering of residents and city leaders. “What happens if all of a sudden, the dike breaks in the middle of the night and I wake up to five feet of water in my house? I’m not going to be able to get myself out.”
Katie Condon ferries her 13-year-old basset hound, Fran, for a respite from the floodwaters surrounding her home at the north end of Tower Street on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, Monday, May 7, 2018.(Kurt Wilson/The Missoulian via AP)
To the east, at least one school was closed indefinitely in Helena as floodwaters surrounded an elementary school, the Independent Record reported. No injuries have been reported from the flooding so far, and officials in Lewis and Clark County have distributed nearly 40,000 sandbags to residents as they prepare for the floods, the AP also reported.
“If you live anywhere near a stream or waterway in western Montana you need to be prepared to leave your home,” Missoula County Disaster and Emergency Services deputy coordinator Ken Parks told the AP. “This is going to come earlier than we expected. We’re trying to get out ahead of this thing and get the message out that this could be a very dangerous situation.”
South of Missoula, an emergency was declared for Ravalli County as officials prepare for flooding, NBC Montana reported.
“No matter what we’re going to have a lot of water coming out of the mountains,” Parks told the AP. “We really can’t win.”