As floodwaters on the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers begin to climb again, the ripple effects of the record-high snowpack and spring rains are being felt across western Montana.
The Clark Fork River is expected to reach major flood stage for the second time in a week on Friday, and is expected to crest at 13.34 feet on Saturday, about 3 feet above flood stage. The Bitterroot River also is expected to crest on Saturday at 11.45 feet, which is considered minor flood stage, just above where it meets the Clark Fork west of Missoula.
The recent rains have boosted small stream flows, but haven’t had much of an impact on the larger rivers, according to Marty Whitmore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Missoula. He expects the skies to clear by the weekend as temperatures return to normal.
“We don’t expect a whole lot of rain. The nice thing is it’s a cool air mass as well, so that will temper some of the snowmelt as well,” Whitmore said. “Projections are brought down for the crests, which will be below 13 feet above Missoula and may come down even more from that. We’ll have some cool days, then temperatures will rebound with highs of 60 to 70 and a minimal chance of precipitation over the weekend into next week.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is that we’ll still have flooding.”
That rapid snowmelt, occurring about two weeks ahead of the normal flood season, has prompted concerns about the potential for mud and debris flows on mountainsides burned during the 2017 Rice Ridge fire near Seeley Lake and the Lolo Peak fire south of Missoula.
Adrianne Beck, director of the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management, said they’ve notified about 10 residences about the increased risk of mudslides in areas intensely burned by the fires.
“We are out making direct contact to make sure they’re aware of the risk and sign up for Smart 911 for emergency notification,” Beck said. The areas include Mormon Creek, Johns Creek, and…