‘Helpless’ as the Groundwater Rises

By Beacon Staff

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CRESTON – Five years ago Ryan and Jessie Beavers built their home on nights and weekends.

Last week they stood at the end of their driveway in Creston and watched as water slowly rose around that very home.

On Memorial Day weekend the couple noticed that the small pond near their house was rising, nothing out of the ordinary for this time of year. Concerned that the water could rise like it did a few years ago – when it flooded the first floor of their house – they called a friend and asked if they could stay with them for a few days, just in case.

The following morning they moved into their friends’ basement as the water suddenly, and unexpectedly, rose out of the pond and spilled into their driveway, before enveloping the first floor of their house. Within a week the water had risen five and a half feet. Since then it has continued to rise and by late last week was covering the bottom nine feet of the house.

“It’s kind of a scary thing because you’re helpless,” Jessie said. “There’s nothing you can do.”

The source of the water that now surrounds their home is caused from an historically high snowpack that has fueled equally high groundwater levels across the Flathead Valley, according to hydrologist Marc Spratt of RLK Hydro in Kalispell.

“It’s high, it’s coming up and more than likely it hasn’t gotten anywhere near peak,” Spratt said.

Spratt hadn’t seen the situation in Creston but said that it was likely that the groundwater levels across the area could stay high well into the summer or fall. He also said that much of that would depend on the weather this summer, which so far has been mostly wet.

Early last week the Beavers brought in a water pump to try bringing the water down and since then six million gallons of water have been removed every 24 hours. While that seemed to work early on, bringing the water down a few inches, by midweek it began to rise again.

“It’s still coming up even with what we’re pumping,” Ryan said.

When the water first began to rise, the couple had moved most of their belongings from the first to the second floor. As the water continued to rise late last week, they spent most of Thursday and Friday packing their belongings in trash bags and boxes and loading them onto a fishing raft to store in Ryan’s parents’ home.

“It’s about the only way to get anything out of the house,” Jessie said.

Because the house isn’t on a floodplain the couple has never had flood insurance and, while they would be qualified for help from FEMA and the federal government, Flathead County wasn’t included in the flood emergency declaration by Gov. Brian Schweitzer late last month. Jessie said that they have contacted the local fire department and county officials, but both said there wasn’t much that could be done until the water came down, whenever that might be.

For now they’ll wait and see what happens. Whether or not they move back into the home after the water recedes is unknown.

“It’s so overwhelming; I mean there’s no way to explain it,” Jessie said. “I mean, that’s your life in there.”

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