Rain, Warm Weather and Snowpack Creates Lengthy Flood Season
The high water season started very early this year, but it coincided with a few more snowstorms in the higher mountains of Western Montana. You can easily see the snowpack by looking up Big Creek canyon as you drive by Victor. And Lolo Peak is still white with snow. Some of the greatest historical flood damage in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula has happened in the first two weeks of June. And yet, with many days left in May, people are already displaced from about 60 homes in the lowlands around Missoula. Lowland flooding has been observed around the Bitterroot River, including the Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge.
At a recent Missoula flood news conference, Public Information Officer Mel Holtz said, “Typically, we don’t see our flooding season for about another week here. We had a really early flooding season and a really high early flood season, and so we’re just getting into what we typically see as our flood season coming up. There’s still a lot of snow up in the mountains that has to come down. We’re continually watching those levels and then letting the public know what those levels are so they can continue to be prepared.”
The Bitterroot River has been running bank-full for over two weeks and the river at Bell Crossing near Victor was at 9.66 feet Monday afternoon, according to the US Geological Survey river gauge. Flood stage of 11 feet at that point is expected to be met by Friday, May 25. The USGS Conner River gauge at the south end of the valley was at 6.47 feet at 3:15 p.m. Monday and was expected to edge above flood stage of 7.5 feet by Thursday, May 24. The river level is expected to stay above flood stage over the weekend.