Snowpack high in county
March 14, 2018
The current snowpack in Jefferson County can be summed up easily: we are in it up to our waists. If you live in the high country, or have spent time there recently, this comes as no surprise. The National Weather Service confirms this with their snow-water equivalent data, which shows the amount of water contained in the snowpack. The Jefferson River watershed, which covers Jefferson County south of Boulder Hill, is currently at 133% of normal. The Missouri Mainstem watershed, which covers Jefferson County north of Boulder Hill, is currently at 150% of normal. Compared to the same date in 2011, a significant flood year in Montana, the Jefferson River watershed was at 103% of normal, while the Missouri Mainstem was at 119%. There is a lot of water waiting to be released. Those numbers don’t necessarily mean floodwaters will come, however. It’s important to note that the 2011 floods occurred because Jefferson County experienced significant rain on top of that snow. However, should we experience a significant rain, or a rapid warm up, Jefferson County could once again face serious flooding.
The County is preparing for this eventuality, but whatever preparations local government takes will never be enough if the citizens of Jefferson County don’t share the responsibility and prepare themselves. Preparation measures include buying sandbags from hardware stores, big box stores, or online. Have sand available, or know where and how you will get it. Buy flood insurance, but remember that it usually doesn’t take effect for thirty days after purchase, so if you buy it while experiencing a flood, it is probably too late. As with all preparation, have an evacuation plan and 72-hour kit available in case evacuation is necessary, or in case floodwaters restrict the ability to purchase food, water, and medicine. Finally, include relatives or friends in preparations who need extra assistance, including the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
Should flooding occur, never attempt to walk or drive through floodwaters. Six inches of fast-moving water can knock over an adult, and twelve inches of rushing water can carry away a small car. Also, obey all road closures, as nationally we see too many deaths and drownings from individuals ignoring such barriers.
Information regarding a flooding event, or any major incident in Jefferson County, can be obtained through the County’s Facebook pages (search for Jefferson County, Montana), or by listening to the County’s low-power FM radio stations: In Montana City at 105.9 FM; in Clancy/Jefferson City at 100.3 FM; in Boulder at 105.9 FM; in Basin at 98.3 FM; in Elk Park at 103.7 FM; in Cardwell at 106.1 FM; and in Whitehall at 106.5 FM. Residents should also register their cell phones for emergency notifications on the County’s website at http://www.jeffersoncounty-mt.gov. The County’s reverse notification system will only reach cell phones registered in the system. For questions regarding preparation for flooding or any other hazard, call Jefferson County’s Office of Disaster and Emergency Services at 406-225-4035.