Montana News

May 16, 2011 7:05 PM by Marnee Banks

Montana prepares for statewide flooding potential

Top state officials briefed Governor Brian Schweitzer (D - Montana) on flood risks in Montana on Monday.

From Glasgow to Libby to Lewistown, the entire state is seeing more water than it has in years.

NOAA Service Hydrologist Gina Loss says the La Nina conditions are creating a massive amount of moisture.

"What areas of the state are we concerned about? This year it's almost what areas of the state are we not concerned about?" Loss told the Governor.

In what the Department of Natural Resources calls its "Drought Report," data is showing Montana is at high risk for flooding.

This year's report states snowpack levels in all major river basins are sitting at a minimum of 140% of average.

For some river basins like the Missouri, Flathead, Yellowstone, and Clark Fork, the snowpack is creeping up toward 200% of average.

DNRC director Mary Sexton says May and June are the wettest months in Montana, and typically by now the snowpack has begun to melt.

"Across the state we've had below average temperatures. What does that mean? Our snow pack is not melting, it's actually been building," said Sexton.

The National Weather Service reports if Montana sees a rapid increase in temperatures the heavy snowpack will melt and cause serious flooding.

Montana National Guard Brigadier General John Walsh reports 2,400 soldiers and airmen are ready to respond to any disaster.

"We've been conducting exercises on a monthly basis, both for floods, forest fires, earthquakes any type of disaster that will come into Montana so that we can respond as quickly as possible to a disaster," said Walsh.

Ed Tinsley, director of the MT Disaster & Emergency Services office, says his office has been working with the National Guard and local law enforcement to prepare for the floods.

"The citizens are always going to be the first responder in a disaster and emergency. It's not going to be us, it's not going to be the Guard, it's not going to be the police officers. It's going to be your neighbors. It's going to be you," Tinsley told the Governor.

Disaster & Emergency Services recommends preparing a 72 hour kit filled with water, food and propane in case of an emergency.

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