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Bitterroot River 1 to 2 feet below flood stage

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HAMILTON, Mont. - The Bitterroot River is running high and fast. Snowmelt and recent rain have left the river 1 to 2 feet below flood stage and seeping over in some low areas.

Office of Emergency Management director Erik Hoover said those levels are lower than we had seen last week, and a cooling trend at the end of the week could see levels drop somewhat.

But the swift current, debris and extremely cold temperatures are still making the river a very dangerous place.

Excess water has crept into low-lying areas near Stevensville.

John Smarik and Deri Wheeler were walking their dog on a river trail near Stevensville Monday. They came to an area near the bank which they said was dry on their last visit. Now they couldn't walk there without getting their feet wet.

Pointing to the river farther south Smarik said, "There used to be a log jam down there. It probably had been there a long time, and it floated away a couple days ago."

The couple say they come to the river just about every day. They're close observers.

"One day we came to the river after it rained," said Smarik, "and it was full of pine cones."

Wheeler has been taking pictures of mountain snowpack.

"The snow has gone way up," she said, pointing to the mountain. "Four days ago the snow was down a lot farther."

Hoover said that is true. But he said there is still a lot of snowpack to make its way down.

He reminds river users that its not safe to be on the river at this time.

Besides the swift currents, "There's still a lot of debris," he said, "and the water is extremely cold."

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