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Montana Ag Network: Flooding concerns along Hi-Line

Posted at 7:09 AM, Apr 24, 2023

With heavy snowmelt comes the risk for heavy flooding and parts of the Hi Line are experiencing that with recent weather melting snowpack across Montana. Several counties have declared disaster, including Blaine County, where officials say flooding isn't as bad as it could have been, but the damage is still there and they are preparing for more flooding with more snow that still needs to melt.

"There are still concerns throughout all of Blaine County with the snow that we got last week and the additional snow that we're going to see this week," Blaine County emergency manager Haley Belk said. "The rain is going to continue to cause issues. We are going to see the creeks and the Milk River take another rise and cause some issues for us. We're hoping that it's a little slower so it doesn't cause any major impacts."

Some roads were damaged and even washed out, leaving room for concern, but officials, including Blaine County commissioner Miles Hutton are still ready for what's coming.

"We didn't lose a lot completely, didn't have them wash out completely, but we have quite a few that probably got ate into a third to two thirds, you know, across where the water washed back under the culvert," Hutton said. "We have the equipment ready to go if we have to use it and it's based on priority too, you know, certain roads have way more traffic than others."

The flooding is affecting not only roads, but farmers and ranchers as well. Tony English and his wife Dixie live just outside of Zurich, above the flood plain. He says that hypothetically, they could still be at their house right now, but because of the risk, they're staying in an RV in Havre. The risk is too great for them to stay home and chance more flooding. But fortunately, their neighbors are lending a helping hand.

"We've got really good neighbors. We've only had pasture land flooded this year so far, so the animals are all safe but I've got my neighbor that was going over when the river was really high. Every other day he'd go over to check. I had another neighbor across the river. He feeds for me. We really don't want to go, but it's a practical thing to do."

Another Blaine County resident, Jon Baker, farms just outside of Harlem and has yet to start seeding this year for his crops. To put it in perspective, they finished seeding last year on April 15th, and now we're almost into May and they haven't even started.

"We were getting nervous. You never know what Mother Nature is going to bring while there," Baker said. We just didn't know if the drainage systems were going to hold. The ditches were all full of water. If one of those washes out, it can definitely make things a lot worse."

He says the water has mostly receded from their land, but still have about 120 to 130 acres submerged under water. Baker says the outlook is looking more and more positive each day as they await to get seed in the ground.

"Things are looking up and watching that giant lake up on my property up here," He added. "It gets smaller and smaller every day and that makes me smile. I go check it, sit and watch water. It's like watching paint dry sometimes, but, you know, every few gallons that goes over the and over the end of the drainage ditch, there is going to be a few more gallons closer to getting out in the field and getting the crop started for the year."

Blaine County residents are encouraged to follow the Blaine County Road Department Facebook page for further updates regarding the flooding.

https://blainecounty-mt.gov/road-department/

https://montana.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=be83aa7c0bf24fbe9006e90c70911db5

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