Missoula is under a flood warning, after the recent warm weather prompted snowmelt to run into the Clark Fork River.
As of Monday morning, the Clark Fork River gauge above Missoula was hovering around 7 feet, and the flows are expected to rise to at least 9 feet by Saturday afternoon. The minor flood stage is 7.5 feet, which the river is expected to reach around noon Tuesday.
At that level, the river probably will flood adjacent low-lying areas, specifically in the Orchard Homes area on the north end of Tower Street, including Kehrwald Drive.
Adriane Beck, director of the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management, said that office was not receiving any reports of water on roadways or in or around homes as of Monday afternoon. But she urged people to keep an eye on the weather and the river gauges, and prepare for what is anticipated to be a normal flood season.
“If you live in an area that got wet here a couple weeks ago, certainly that was somewhat of a precursor to this,” Beck said. “We are still in what we typically classify as an average year, but just have new flood levels. Based upon what we saw last year, we lowered the minor flood stage, which means we may be close to flooding.
“People need to pay attention to the changing conditions. With the warm weather during the last couple days, we’re seeing the river react to that snowpack that’s starting to melt.”
Dave Noble with the National Weather Service in Missoula said last weekend’s warm temperatures, which included valley highs near 80 degrees and lows in the 40s and 50s in the mountains, helped melt the snowpack. It’s hovering around 90 percent of normal in the Clark Fork drainages, which includes the Blackfoot River.
That warm weather isn’t going to last. While the forecast high is 79 degrees for Tuesday, the cloud cover is expected to roll in and bring the chance of scattered rain showers with it. Wednesday and Thursday carry a greater chance of rain and perhaps some thunderstorms, with widespread rainfall forecast for Friday and Saturday.
“We expect the river levels to crest sometime Saturday or Sunday, but that could change depending on how much precipitation we get Friday and Saturday,” Noble said. “We’ll be getting a lot of cloud cover coming in off the Pacific.
“We’re going from a summer-like break to cooler temps — about a 20-degree difference. The end of the week will be a shock for some people.”