For those of you who read the story in the Star yesterday and wondered where the rest of it went:
Warm temperatures, ice jams create flood potential
By AMANDA BREITBACH RAGSDALE
Miles City Star
With warmer temperatures over the past few days, snowmelt and ice jam conditions have created potential for flooding on a number of area rivers.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Yellowstone River in Miles City and for the Powder River near Locate on Sunday.
Tom Frieders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, said area river levels appear to have peaked on Saturday and are now going down.
Ice on the Tongue River broke up and released early Saturday morning, sending ice down to the Yellowstone, where it temporarily jammed up at the Seventh Street Bridge. The Yellowstone peaked at 14.9 feet that day and fell quickly to 12 feet after the ice jam released and moved further downstream. Since then, water levels have risen again and are now hovering around 14 feet.
As snow and ice melt, large chunks of river ice tend to jam up at bridges and bends in the river, he explained. Water from continued snowmelt then backs up behind these ice jams, often causing localized flooding.
Frieders said no significant flooding has been reported in the area so far. Some minor low-land flooding took place south of Miles City on the Tongue River, but no structural damage has been reported.
As warmer temperatures continue into this week, he said river ice is expected to continue melting, and jam conditions should lessen.
Custer County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Jim Zabrocki said a large ice jam on the Yellowstone remains blocked up from downstream of the Seventh Street Bridge to Pirogue Island, while a jam on the Powder River near Locate had released as of this morning, reducing the danger of flooding in that area.
Water levels on the Tongue and Yellowstone rivers will continue to fluctuate as ice moves downstream, he said, and officials are monitoring ice jams as they form.
"With ice jams, pretty much all we can do is monitor it and keep the public alerted," Zabrocki noted. "We're not going to break up a big ice jam."
Officials will be looking over the river today, particularly at places where the ice usually jams, so they can continue to monitor water levels and warn property owners in flood-prone areas.
"The river has been falling, so that's the main thing. All we need to do is just keep an eye on it," Zabrocki said.
"Farmers and ranchers, get your livestock and equipment out of low-lying areas and please watch the rivers," he added. "Hopefully everybody's done it and (they) haven't had any losses, and hopefully everybody's safe."
Mark Fix, who ranches about 20 miles southwest of Miles City on the Tongue, said he moved his cattle just in time Friday night from a pasture that was flooded Saturday morning.
"I saw it coming up Friday night, and I thought, boy, I better move them," Fix said, noting that large chunks of ice are now stuck on an island downstream of his pasture, above where the Tongue meets the T&Y irrigation channel.
"It's a big, solid chunk of ice, and it kind of busted up in spots," he said, which could send more water down towards the Yellowstone as it comes loose and moves downstream.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials said today Pirogue Island State Park, just northeast of Miles City, has been closed to public use due to heavy flooding and safety concerns.
According to a press release from Montana FWP, a sign at the entry gate to the park indicates that it is currently closed to public use and will remain so until further notice.
The northern portion of the Park is flooded, and the public is advised not to use the access road beginning at the Kinsey Highway to avoid potential surface damage and to eliminate the possibility of vehicles becoming stuck in the mud.
Numerous FWP fishing access sites along the Yellowstone River also may experience flood conditions in the near future, the press release noted. The public should use caution and common sense to avoid dangerous flood conditions along the river corridor.
The flood warning on the Yellowstone remains effective through tomorrow morning, Frieders said, noting that, depending on conditions, further snow melt may create additional flooding.
"We still have several inches of water left in that snowpack out there," he said, adding, "Miles City, Ekalaka and into northeastern Montana really got hit the hardest with a pretty significant winter."
Slower melting would allow runoff to disperse and prevent problems, he noted. The National Weather Service and Custer County DES will continue to monitor low-lying areas and issue flood alerts as necessary.