By Taylor Anderson
Gallatin County is in a flood warning after spitting fits of rain have swelled creeks past the breaking point.
Patrick Lonergan, the Gallatin County emergency manager, said in a statement Tuesday that creeks and streams in Bozeman could accept literally no more water in the form of rain or snowmelt.
But Tuesday rain continued overnight, and several roads throughout Bozeman have been flooded.
The following Bozeman roads were closed to traffic Wednesday: Kagy from Tracy to Sourdough eastbound; Kagy from Carol Place to Tracy westbound; Mendenhall from Rouse Ave to just west of Bozeman Creek has been reduced to one lane.
A number of parks and trails are also closed to foot traffic.
Many homeowners near floodplains have lined banks with sandbags to divert and absorb the water once it reaches its banks, but find themselves at the feet of the weather as rain and heat threaten their property.
“Bridger and Bozeman creeks are at capacity,” Lonergan said Wednesday. “Anybody that has been flooded in the past or thinks that they might see flooding should be ready.”
People who waited until flooding occurred to get prepared are too late, he said, and at risk homeowners should be ready by now for peak runoff, which will almost definitely bring severe flooding to the area.
“[This year’s runoff] is kind of a double-edged sword,” Lonergan said. “It’s nice to spread it out over time, but the snow has to come off sometime.”
Highway 191 was already closed on May 22 due to flooding after the Gallatin River in the canyon breached its bank and flowed onto the road. The road reopened the same day.
The Gallatin near Logan exceeded its flood stage level after a rainy May 24 night, but Ray Noble, a Gallatin County Floodplain Administrator for Three Forks, said any serious flooding wouldn’t happen there until peak runoff around the second week in June.
Major rivers west of the divide and east of Bozeman have already spilled, leaving some Livingston landowners with ponds rather than grasslands.
The Shields River in Livingston also passed its flood stage on May 22, and continued to spike from there. The Shields exceeded its 1997 record discharge rate of 2680 cubic feet per second, flowing on May 25 at 3540 cubic feet per second.
USGS reports 30 river sites in Montana have set new records of stream flows as of May 25, most of which are east of Livingston. At least 38 more sites are flowing in the 90th percentile of the 30-year average and are threatening to rise when the weather warms.
Call 582-3175 for a recorded update.