MISSOULA – Missoula County commissioners are being asked to approve an emergency flooding declaration using a lower official flood stage for a section of the Clark Fork River, with the idea of giving residents more warning of high water.
Last year, near-record floods inundated residents along the Orchard Homes stretch of the Clark Fork just below Missoula. But the National Weather Service, the US Geological Survey and the Missoula County Office of Emergency Management now believe the old 10-foot flood stage no longer reflects the actual flood threat on that part of the river, especially after river channels changed dramatically last spring.
So now, the flood stage would be pulled back to 7.5 feet, giving everyone an earlier warning to prepare for high water.
“The emergency proclamation does not mean that we are in a flood emergency right now. It essentially allows us the ability to start those necessary preparations in case we have an emergency,” said Adriane Beck, Director of the Missoula Office of Emergency Management. “It allows us to start getting all our stakeholders together, to activate our emergency operations center, and to start making some of those plans should the river rise to that level.”
Officials will discuss the new, lower flood stage with neighborhoods in the Orchard Homes area at Hawthorne School on April 24 at 6 p.m.