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Cooler weather helping ease Clark Fork River flood levels

Posted at 3:56 PM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 14:56:25-04

MISSOULA – Residents in flood zone areas are keeping a very close eye on the rising waters in their neighborhoods with this latest wet weather system moving in.

But there’s more good news to report on the next crest for flooding on the Clark Fork River as cool weather is doing its part to slow snowmelt off the mountains.

The forecast for Friday’s next crest on the river has been gradually dropping. Although waters will still be high again as we start the weekend, hydrologists are now expecting the crest on Clark Fork at Missoula to be at 12.6 feet.

If that holds true, the river should stay below the 13-foot “major” floodstage and would be more than a foot lower than last week’s crest, which had been the highest in more than a century.

“The Clark Fork River expected heights through this weekend are going to kind of level off a little bit. We’ve had this cooler air come in. And whenever we get these cooler air masses, just like we had at the end of the last surge of water that came down the river, it brings the rivers to a level spot and they start dropping some,” National Weather Service Hydrologist Ray Nickless said, “It’s such a big factor. We can get cool air in this time of year and it really slows down that snowmelt coming out of the mountains, in some cases, shuts it down.”

The flooding forecast for the Bitterroot River forecast has also moderated with “minor” flooding expected above the confluence with the Clark Fork River.

Nickless is still warning that high country snowpack remains robust, and he believes the flooding threat will continue well into June.

Reporting by Mark Thorsell for MTN News