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Stevensville-area residents deal with flooding

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STEVENSVILLE, Mont. - A break in the rain eased the brunt of flooding in the Bitterroot. But for some residents high water is still serious business to property.

One of the areas hardest hit was east of Stevensville.

On Wednesday water from Burnt Fork Creek was still flowing over Middle Burnt Fork Road.

It's been a long and tense couple days for some residents here. One man said he was up most of the night keeping watch on the water that was flowing through the yard.

Down the road NBC Montana met Edwin Packer as he surveyed his sopping wet yard.

"Mother Nature threw a swing at us," he said, "and gave us a doggone roundhouse."

Packer had already pumped water out of his neighbor's basement.

He is an avid gardener who makes salsa and wine. Looking at the water standing in his garden he said he was hoping for as many as 350 peppers that would make 50 gallons of salsa.

"It looks like this year has shut down," he said. "The peppers I really counted on are the ones that are drowned," he laughed.

But he said he is more fortunate than many of his neighbors.

On the road next to his place is a line of sandbags to protect his house. Water was rushing down that road heading toward a neighboring ranch.

Packer said it was cutting a channel through the neighbor's pasture.

Packer gave us a ride around back in his pickup because there was too much water to negotiate on foot.

He pointed to the rushing water and said it has receded a couple feet since Tuesday. But he said it is still doing a lot of damage to his neighbor's property.

"It's raging right now," he said. "It's already taken out part of their property on the back side."

The force of too much water moving too fast left its mark in other places on Middle Burnt Fork Road. It had washed away a part of the road leading to private property, leaving a gash that will take time and money to repair.

In other flood issues, the Stevensville Ranger District has temporarily closed Willow Creek Roads #364 and #969 east of Corvallis.

The Forest Service said the closing followed several slides that has covered the road with mud, rocks and debris.

The slides were likely triggered by localized, heavy rain from from this week's storms. The known slides are located near the junction with Butterfly Road below the Willow Creek trailhead. Forest crews have placed barricades across the road to prevent entry.

Bitterroot National Forest road crews began clearing debris from the road Wednesday. Engineers are reviewing the area to determine the extent of the damage and necessary work to repair the roads which will remain closed until further notice.

Numerous weather stations on the forest including Sawmill Creek, Deer Mountain and Tepee Point all received more than 2 inches of rainfall from this week's storms. The Gird Point station east of Hamilton off Skalkaho Road received a record 3.7 inches of precipitation in a 48-hour period.

The Montana Department of Transportation has closed Skalkaho Pass between milepost 15 to 36 due to water on the roadway and soft shoulders. Skalkaho Falls is not accessible at this time due to the closure. For the latest information visit www.mdt.gov or dial 511.

Due to potential rutting and culvert washouts from the recent rains, the Bitterroot National Forest recommends being cautious when driving roads anywhere in the forest, but especially in the Sapphire Mountains where the heaviest rains occurred.

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