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Gallatin River ice jam causes flooding, road closure

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 01 2014 10:18:57 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 01 2014 10:59:30 PM MST
GALLATIN GATEWAY, Mont. -

Shifting ice on the Gallatin River, south of Bozeman, prompts new concerns of flooding.

According to emergency personnel in the area, the existing ice jam has changed to block off water flow to the eastern channel. That has sent more water back into the river's western channel, similar to the situation that resulted in flooding in December.

Emergency workers are urging residents to be vigilant with the changing conditions.

Water is on or near the roadway in some areas, and the Gallatin County Road Department has closed Axtell-Gateway Road from Gateway South Road to Deer Spring Lane.

Dick Shockley lives in Gallatin Gateway. His property runs alongside the edge of the Gallatin River most of the time.

"The main river channel has frozen and created an ice jam where the main channel usually flows," Shockley explained. "The water is trying to find escape routes and the path of least resistance, so it's leaving the main stream bed and flooding some of these areas."

Shockley showed NBC Montana around his property, where the overflowing river has taken over. He showed us his flooded shed and a tree house with about three feet of water underneath it. So far, his house remains untouched.

"Fortunately our house sits up on a little higher ground," he said.

Just down the road from Shockley, Axtell-Gateway Road is closed, keeping many residents from driving to and from their homes.

"It seems that Mother Nature consistently and continually whispers to you to let you know who's in charge," Shockley said, "but occasionally she shouts out, and today she's shouting out."

Authorities warn winter flooding can change rapidly and catch people off guard. They warn residents in the area should closely monitor the river to ensure they have time to take the necessary steps to protect their property before flooding becomes a problem.

We asked Shockley if the flooding on his property has made him reconsider where he lives, but he said Mother Nature won't be able to drive him out of his house.

"I feel blessed to be able to live right here next to the river and it happens so seldom that I just feel like it hasn't been a major problem," he explained, "and we haven't been impacted significantly financially or with damages, so I can only hope that will be what the future holds as well."