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The Montana Flood of 2018

This year ushered in colder than normal and the snowpack was good, though the amount of snow in the mountains was very close to average. What was unusual is that there was a great deal of precipitation in the early spring and it didn’t start warming up until well after a month later than it usually does. In fact, each time it would marginally warmer, the temperature would drop and it would snow in the mountains, replacing any snow that melted. This set the stage for the Montana flood of 2018.

When temperatures did start increasing, they did so slowly and the rain continued. By early June, our temperatures are usually consistently in the mid 70’s or more. This year, even in mid-June, we were still having temperatures in the 50-60 range. It also normally rains about 3-4 days in June. This year, we’d have two or three days of clouds and occasional sunshine, then two or three days of almost constant rain. 

The ground became saturated. Then in late-June, we started getting normal warmth, with temperatures in the mid to upper-70’s. After July 4th, the temperatures jumped up into the high 80’s. This caused the snowpack to melt fast and since very little of the snow had melted when it normally does, there was a huge volume of water. Since the ground was saturated, it couldn’t hold more water and Montana had what has been called a century flood, meaning that it was the worst flooding in 100 years.

Locally, our river was already swollen from all of the rain. It actually reached flood stage on June 12 and it stayed at or above that level for the next two weeks. Flood warnings were in effect almost every day and much of the lowland was flooded out. Roads were severely damaged, train tressels were damaged, buildings were damaged, and we had the worst year for mosquitoes in decades, because of all the water.

My daughter and I love to fish and normally we go out for the first time in the year in April. This year, the water level was too high to go out until late June. The following pictures are ‘before and after’ pictures, if you will, to compare when the water level was high and more recent pictures of what it looks like now after the flood water receded totally.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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