UPDATE: Whitefish and Stillwater Rivers to Hit Flood Stage

By Beacon Staff

UPDATE: The National Weather Service in Missoula was forecasting Friday afternoon that the Whitefish and Stillwater rivers would hit flood stage some time over the weekend.

At 1 p.m. the Whitefish River near Kalispell was at 8.06 feet, about a half-foot away from flood stage, which it was expected to hit sometime Sunday. Meanwhile, the Stillwater River at Lawrence Park was just hours away from its 7.5-foot flood stage. Both rivers were still reacting to this week’s rain that was slowly making its way into the river system.

Forecasters say this year’s high snowpack will result in high water for the next few weeks and that the end remains far from sight. Places like Poorman Creek, near Libby, still have 30 inches of water within the snowpack. Normally there is only five inches this time of year.

ORIGINAL STORY: While many residents across western Montana were waking up to raging rivers, those in Flathead and Lincoln counties had pretty much dodged the bullet.

By Thursday morning, no rivers in Northwest Montana had reached flood stage, as was predicted by the National Weather Service in Missoula on Wednesday afternoon. As a result all flood advisories had been lifted for both counties, with the exception of a river specific warning on the Stillwater, according to meteorologist Jessica Nolte.

Nolte said that when area observers began to report the river levels Thursday morning it was clear that things were on the decline, although some rivers did get close to flood stage during the night.

“Observations have been coming in lower and lower,” Nolte said.

As of 8:45 a.m. the Flathead River at Columbia Falls was at 13.1 feet and on the decline; the Middle Fork at West Glacier was at 8.5 feet, a foot and a half below flood stage at that area; And the Stillwater in Kalispell was at 7 feet, but remained in a river specific flood warning a half foot away from flood stage.

Nolte said that during the day Wednesday the predictions for the Flathead Valley were much more dire because of a strong rain system moving north, but by the time it arrived the precipitation was much lighter.

“The bulk of the heavy precipitation fell in the southern parts of the Mission Mountains and Missoula,” she said.

The effects of that rain was being felt throughout the Missoula area Thursday morning, as the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers all jumped above flood stage and overwhelmed low lying streets and homes.