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Near Record Snowpack Could Mean Flooding in Western Montana

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The National Weather Service released a webinar on Tuesday detailing the potential for flooding in western Montana as spring eventually turns to summer.

Meteorologist Ray Nickless provided snowpack numbers for the river basins surrounding the area.

“The entire Clark Fork river basin above Missoula is up in that 158 percent or normal range right now,” said Nickless. “The Flathead drainage is sitting now at 141 percent. The Bitterroot drainage is no slouch either, it’s got 131 percent. As far as setting new records, the Blackfoot drainage and the Clark Fork are seeing new highs for this time of year, however the snow accumulation is continuing up in the high country all the way through April. For this time of year, it’s the highest we’ve seen them.”

Nickless said the areas most prone to flooding for the Clark Fork basin are beyond the downtown area.

“Those are the areas down on that area where the Clark Fork River has a tendency to spill over in that section down by Third Street,” he said. “If we start to see that snowpack come off and combine with that rain especially, just based on the snowpack that we see, we’re certainly looking at very high water on the Clark Fork River.”

Director of the Office of Emergency Management for Missoula County, Adriane Beck, said she and her staff attended the briefing with the National Weather Service and have begun making contingency plans for high water should it occur. She encourages homeowners who have experienced high water in the past to begin making preparations should the rivers approach flood stage.

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