Flood washes out Conrad area roads, Choteau breaks snowfall recordNews Type: State Source: Great Falls Tribune
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Farmers and ranchers along the northern Rocky Mountain Front woke Friday to flooded fields and washed out roads after a fast-moving spring snowstorm dropped another 10 inches in what is shaping up to be a record-setting snow year.
“We have 17 roads that have portions … closed because they have either washed out or the road is starting to slough,” said LeAnn Hermance, Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Pondera County. “We have 28 roads with water over the road. It’s not flowing, but its water over the road.”
“It’s not a good situation all the way around,” Hermance added. “I think we have three roads that are completely washed out or the culverts are washed out. We’re just waiting for the snow to go away.”
The eight to 10 inches of heavy, wet snow that covered an area stretching from Great Falls to Shelby comes on top of the 90-plus inches that have already fallen since late last fall.
The National Weather Service reports that the city of Choteau has already broken its all-time seasonal snowfall record with 90.1 total inches (more than seven-and-a-half feet) recorded through midnight Thursday. That breaks the total set in 1966 – 1967 when 90.0 inches were recorded in Choteau.
Great Falls is now on pace to break its snowfall record set in 1988 – 1989, when 117.5 inches fell over the Electric City. Thursday, the Great Falls airport recorded 9.7 inches of snow. The “to date” total for the 2017 – 2018 snow year in Great Falls now stands at 104.9, besting the previous record set through April 12 – and there still remains many weeks during which measurable snow could add depth to the eight-and-a-half feet that have already fallen.
Hermance said that the current flooding issues in Pondera County are primarily connected to accumulated snow-melt draining from area fields.
“One of our big issues is with the irrigation canals and ditches,” Hermance noted. “They’re already full with snow and ice and the water is going into them. Now it’s coming out of those ditches and flowing over the roads. Until it dries up there’s not a lot we can do. We’re just trying to keep the roads open as much as possible.”
Thus far, flooding across northern Montana has been relatively minor. The larger concern is for the mountain snow-pack, which at this point has yet to unleash its water accumulation into the streams and rivers.
“We have above to well above normal snowpack in the mountains, and all of that will have to come out at some point,” said Roger Martin, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls. “If it comes out slowly we may not see really bad flooding. What can be a really bad issue is if you have rain on top of snow. That was pretty much what happened back in the 2011 floods.”