Our First Alert Weather team is tracking potential flooding in Southwest Montana. As of Tuesday afternoon, just one southwest Montana river is approaching flood stage, the East Gallatin River just north of Bozeman. A monitoring station off of Springhill Road shows the river is about seven inches from minor flooding.
We met Patrick Lonergan with Gallatin County Emergency Management at that site on Tuesday. He says they are watching the rivers, and it is important to remember conditions can change quickly.
Longergan says if you think you live in an area where you could see flooding this year, go ahead and stock up on sandbags. It is also good to prepare a clear and easy plan for you, your family, and pets in case a flood were to occur.
While flooding can be unpredictable this time of year, Lonergan laid out some of the tell tale signs.
"Some of the things to look out for are large snowpacks late in the season in the mountains, late spring snow, heavy continuous rains, warm temperatures where the mountains don't freeze at night, so it allows snow to melt off 24 hours a day," said Lonergan.
The East Gallatin River area is no stranger to flooding. It flooded in 2008, 2009 and in 2011.
Businesses are keeping a close eye on water levels, saying they know the history, and know it could happen again. We headed just down the road from the East Gallatin River, to Riverside Country Club. Superintendent of the golf course Kurt Klonsinski tells us they have been prepared for months. We found sandbags in the parking lot in preparation for this season's flood danger.
We were shown pictures from 2008, when the golf course experienced firsthand what the flood waters can do. The East Gallatin River crested at more than 5 feet that May, the second highest on record.
"I would say since 2008, we have really had to address flooding, we had to use a kayak to reach some of the buildings that had emergency alarms going off, " said Klonsinski.
Since 2008, the golf course has begun preparations well in advance. More sandbags were already sitting at the 9th hole.
Klonsinski drove us around the course to different areas they are concerned about, explaining workers will likely place hundreds of sandbags in spots near the river.
"We'll have at least 700, 800, maybe 1,000 bags of sand that we have to station along our ditch," said Klonsinski.
As superintendent of the course, Klonsinski doesn't rest when he knows potential flooding could hit the area. He has stayed overnight at the club before to make sure he is ready to act when waters start to rise, and is predicting that may happen again this season.
"In a year like this it will be two, three nights that we will be watching, maybe four," said Klonsinski.