Swollen streams create flooding in Bitterroot


HAMILTON, Mont. - Streams and creeks are overflowing in parts of the Bitterroot. Consistent rain and continued spring runoff have pushed some waterways to their limit.

The Bitterroot River is rushing fast and is expected to reach flood stage by Wednesday afternoon.

There are reports of flooding in low-lying areas, and free sandbags are being made available for anyone who needs them.

As much as 3 to 4 inches of rain fell in the valley.

On Tuesday water was flowing across West Side Road near Roaring Lion, south of Hamilton.

James Schwehr owns a trucking company nearby, so he is keeping a close eye on the water. He's taking it in stride and isn't too worried, not yet at least.

"If it ain't fires it's flooding," he laughed. "Or snow."

Schwehr spent the winter plowing snow in snowstorm after snowstorm. Last summer he was evacuated during the Roaring Lion Fire.

Skalkaho Creek was filled to the brim in spots and had overflowed into a low-lying field near Grantsdale. That area has flooded in past years also.

There are also reports of flooding in the Stevensville and Victor areas.

"Areas along Middle Bear Creek," said emergency management director Erik Hoover, "along Kootenai Creek in the south Kootenai area, in the Burnt Fork, Middle Burnt Fork and South Burnt Fork area."

Josh Heath, from the Hamilton Golf Club, supplied NBC Montana with photographs he took of flooding at Hole 1.

Sandbags have been delivered to the Corvallis Fire Department. There's a sand pile already set up at the Victor Fire Department.

"We've reached out to Corvallis Fire Department, as well as the Victor and Stevensville fire departments," said Hoover, "and are continuing to work with other districts."

Hoover said sandbags are free, but residents are responsible for filling and the transportation of bags.

As the Bitterroot River continues to rise the Woodside Fishing Access parking lot was under water, as it has been for awhile.

Hoover said this is the most serious flood threat since February when ice jams created flooding, mostly in the Corvallis area.