For a few residents on East Beckwith Avenue, the onset of spring means the return of flooding.
Near the southeast corner of the University of Montana’s campus, a side street branches off the main avenue and runs along the base of Mount Sentinel. This time of year, a snowmelt-fed spring gets active behind Jerry Kaiserman's house.
“He says this happens every spring,” said his neighbor, Chad Pickett, who was spending his first year on the street. “It comes off the mountain and funnels right through here.”
Water was steadily gushing out from under Kaiserman’s house and over his driveway, collecting in the street and up Pickett’s driveway. He wasn’t home Friday, but Pickett said that “apparently everything’s dry inside, [but] his shed is pretty flooded.”
“It’s definitely getting worse,” he said. “Within the last week it’s kind of come up our sidewalk and into our driveway over there.”
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This is a seasonal occurrence, said Bob Hayes, the city of Missoula’s storm water superintendent. “The water comes down to the base of the hill and it comes out at the weakest spot it can find, and the weakest spot happens to be this garage” on East Beckwith Avenue.
He explained that the storm drains in the area are unconnected pits; as each one fills up, they’re intended to overflow into the gutters, which divert water into other ones nearby. By Friday afternoon, water was pooling around several drains in the area.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do,” Hayes said. ”It’d be [like] attempting to pump the Clark Fork River dry, and we just can’t do that.”
In an email, Hayes added that no property was believed to be in danger of flooding, and that the city had placed temporary signage in the area to warn drivers about water on the road. However, there were no signs at the entrance to the side street itself.
Hayes said it was uncertain how long the situation would last. “It could be a few days; it could be a few weeks,” he said.