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Ravalli County prepares for possible flooding

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: May 14 2014 07:27:31 PM MDT
Updated On: May 14 2014 11:35:12 PM MDT
HAMILTON, Mont. -

With snowpack at as much as 200 percent in the Bitterroot Mountains, warmer temperatures in the coming days spell potential flooding.

All that snow has to go somewhere, and it will find its way into the Bitterroot River, and the valley's myriad streams.

Emergency crews are hoping for a slow runoff. But the Sheriff's Department said as temperatures warm up, all of Ravalli County will see poor water drainage conditions.

The Bitterroot River is flowing fast. But it is still in its banks.

All the snow covering the tops of the mountains will start to melt. Some already has.

"We're encouraging folks to be award of flood potential," said Erik Hoover, interim director of the Office of Emergency Management.

Hoover said sand and bags are available through local fire districts.

Corvallis firefighter Derick Frey picked up a big bundle of sandbags at the Corvallis Fire Station Wednesday. He laid them next to a big sand pile outside the station.

"To make sure we have enough sand in the pile, and shovels and other things," said Frey, "so people can get the sandbags they need to stop the water flow."

At Angler's Roost, south of Hamilton, Pam Thomas knows firsthand about high water. She displayed a picture of flooding at the popular river site, fishing store and RV park several years ago.

"People who are going to be staying here long term stay up top," said Thomas, "because this year it could blow out. We could just get a few more nights of warm weather and it will come up fast."

Fishermen don't like high water much. It's not good for the fishing business.

The Bitterroot River can be very dangerous too, especially when faster water carries debris that can plug the waterway. Trees and brush pose a danger to anyone in the river.