Officials Say Flooding Threat Looms Across State

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – More flood threats loom for Montana as an already-deep mountain snowpack increases and a cool spring brings more moisture.

River basins in the mountains are nearly double their average snowpack levels, and eastern Montana has already dealt with some rivers and flooding in places. The National Weather Service said flood threats could persist into early July due to the cool weather.

“It is going to be a big flood year,” said Gina Loss, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service. “There is not any part of the state void of any chance of flooding.”

The potential for flooding increases if a big rainfall prompts a snow melt, she said.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer said it is too early to predict the impact on fire season — saying just two weeks of unseasonably hot weather could create a fire problem although the moisture doesn’t hurt. He, too, anticipated flooding in the state at a briefing Monday from several state and federal agencies.

He also pointed out that the moisture will be good for agriculture and could work out well in the end for the state.

“I am going to predict for the state of Montana there will be floods,” the governor said.

There are other positive impacts such as more water in streams for fish, full reservoirs to help make electricity at dams and plenty of moisture for crops.

Schweitzer said the same weather system that is bringing cool, wet weather to Montana is cooking the south-central part of the country. He says that could lead to a poor wheat crop in those parts of the country and help keep wheat prices high for Montana farmers who could see a second straight year of great yields.

“One again we are going to have a big crop up here and a big price,” said Schweitzer.

The state is reminding people to be prepared with a kit of emergency essentials, pointing out that that flood insurance is a good idea.

Schweitzer said the impact of the flood depends heavily on where and when it happens, a confluence of events nearly impossible to predict.

But Schweitzer remained positive, saying the potential economic boom of the wet weather is likely to be better than the potential economic loss of flooding.