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Flooding in Red Lodge and surrounding locations has forced evacuations

September 21, 20226 Mins Read

Flooding in Red Lodge and surrounding stunning locations has forced evacuations, and multiple bridges have been washed out.

According to the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, torrential rains and flooding in the Red Lodge region have washed away multiple bridges and caused the closure of Highway 308 into the area.
“The water is highly dangerous,” the sheriff stated in a Facebook post on Monday morning. “There are multiple closures in the city of Red Lodge.”

A hammering on the door jolted Red Lodge homeowner John Clayton awake at 5 a.m. Monday. A neighbour requested that a parked automobile be moved so that they could get away from Rock Creek, which runs through the mountain village from the Bighorn Mountains.

“For Rock Creek, Thirteenth Street has created a new channel,” Clayton added. “My street’s basements have all been flooded.”
Kristan Apodaca, a Joliet resident, stood across the street at the washed-out Highway 308 bridge, wiping tears away while talking on her telephone.
Anne Woodruff, her grandma, died in March, and her house is up for sale. It’s now completely inundated.

“It was their final dream house,” Apodaca explained, “since my grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”

The log home, erected on the banks of Rock Creek in the early 2000s, is a treasured location for Apodaca and her family. Her husband proposed to her at the now-flooded Rotary Park, which also housed a memorial bench in her grandfather’s honour.

“I am sixth-generation,” she explained, “and this is our home.” “I literally drove across that bridge yesterday.” My mother drove it before it was washed out at 3 a.m.”

During the 2011 floods, Apodaca’s home in Joliet was inundated. “However, that was nothing compared to this.” This is something we’ve never seen before.”

The city’s water main was poisoned and had to be shut off. The city’s public works department is seeking for other clean water sources.

According to county officials, an evacuation order has been issued for South Kainu Avenue, Island at Rock Creek, and first responders have been going house to house notifying people. The region east of Broadway and west of Rock Creek from 19th Street to 16th Street has also been advised to evacuate.

At the Carbon County Fairgrounds, a shelter has been set up in the Gruell Building. Information may be obtained by calling 406-426-2425.
The bank of the 19th Street bridge in Red Lodge has been breached by Rock Creek, making the bridge unsafe to cross. Many rivers in south-central and southern Montana are running at or near their maximum capacity.

On Monday, the Stillwater River was flowing at 18,400 cubic feet per second, compared to 3,270 cubic feet per second at this time of year. The Yellowstone River near Billings was flowing at 53,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), compared to a typical of 24,000 cfs. The Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone was at 11,100 cubic feet per second (cfs) when it should have been at 3,580.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the greatest Yellowstone streamflow near Billings was 76,000 cfs in 1997.

Rock Creek in Red Lodge crested at almost 2,000 cubic feet per second Monday morning. The previous peak flow on the creek was 1,320 cubic feet per second (cfs) in 1935. During this time of year, the stream normally flows at around 500 cubic feet per second.

A washed-out bridge is suspected of blocking section of the stream early Monday morning, directing floodwater into Red Lodge.

Rainfall and snowfall
The flooding is most likely caused by the accumulation of snow from the late spring’s chilly temperatures. Low precipitation rates were experienced in the Red Lodge region from January to March.

The rains came quickly in April and May, building up snow, according to Eric Larson, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Around Red Lodge, some locations had 150 percent of their typical snowfall.

A snow and weather monitoring station in Red Lodge, Beartooth Lake SNOTEL, recorded 50 inches of snowfall. According to Larson, that’s nearly 20 inches of rain, and the current rain is pushing the snow to melt faster than the ground can manage.

Cooler weather is the best case scenario for preventing floods, he continued. When the temperature cools, the pace of melting slows as well, giving the river more time to recover.

Fishing access is no longer available.
According to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Facebook post, extreme flooding conditions are in effect in the upper Yellowstone and Gallatin River drainages, among others.

All fishing access locations on the upper Yellowstone River are being evacuated and closed by FWP employees. Missouri Headwaters State Park is also blocked in parts. FWP stated that further information would be released when it becomes available. Flooding poses considerable safety risks, particularly to recreationalists. These situations might appear out of nowhere and grow without notice.

Sunday was the first day of flooding.
A damaged irrigation ditch between Park City and Columbus inundated Old Highway 10 on Sunday. According to the Montana Department of Transportation’s road conditions website, the route flooded Sunday morning and remained closed until that evening.

There was no time frame for when the road will reopen. According to the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, the Stillwater River in Columbus was swiftly approaching flood stage, with a flow of more than 10,000 cfs as of Sunday.

The Beartooth Pass was also blocked till further notice, according to the Carbon County Sheriff. Due to damage to the bridge at Roscoe, Highway 78 is blocked between mile marks 19 and 21.

A wildfire caused some evacuations in the Red Lodge area in July. Mt. Maurice, the sentinel peak rising beyond downtown Red Lodge, was scorched by the Robertson Draw Fire, which burnt over 30,000 acres.

The Paradise Valley was also flooded heavily on Monday. According to the US National Weather Service, Corwin Springs is above flood stage, with the river at its greatest level since 1918 and continues rising.

The National Weather Service issued a warning at 6:30 a.m. to anybody camped along the river in the Paradise Valley to relocate to higher ground immediately.

According to a Facebook post from Stillwater County, severe flooding was observed Monday morning along the Stillwater River in the Absarokee, Nye, and Fishtail regions.


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