Jun 7, 2011 8:36 PM by Melissa Anderson (Helena)
The heavy, persistent rain, coupled with already swollen rivers and streams from mountain snowmelt, have triggered flooding in and around Helena.
Some Helena area residents woke up to homes surrounded by water on Tuesday.
Skeet Baertsch, who lives on McHugh Road, said, "Two electric pumps on the basement and a gas pump sitting outside the house ready to go for emergency. That's all I can do."
Lewis & Clark County Commissioners declared the flood emergency early Tuesday morning, and with good reason.
"The emergency allows us to give people sandbags to get out and do what we need to do to help prevent additional flooding on people's homes," said County Commission Chair Derek Brown.
City and county officials at the Emergency Operations Center began mapping out areas of concern.
Volunteers were then dispatched to affected area, using resources to try and stop further damage.
"I've got about 2,000 sandbags here ready to be filled when people need them," noted West Valley Fire Chief Jerry Shepherd.
Floodwaters began threatening several roads as the day went on.
Rising water along McHugh Drive in the west half of the valley is now at bridge level and spilling onto the roadway, as Ten Mile Creek creates its own path of least resistance.
Eventually six homes were evacuated on Eastview Road near East Helena.
County Disaster & Emergency Services coordinator Paul Spengler noted, "When they're told to evacuate, they should evacuate, we have a shelter set up at the First Assembly of God Church on Dodge Avenue."
At a briefing on Tuesday afternoon, city and county officials discussed other areas that are seeing flooding, including Rimini, Colorado Gulch and the Lawe Enforcement Academy off of Sierra Road.
Although the mass amounts of water are a sight to see, law enforcement officials say the areas can be dangerous and is asking that the public stay away from flooded roads.
An earthen dam broke this morning south of East Helena, threatening residents living along Prickly Pear Creek.
The dam is located on Ash Grove property just off of highway 518.