Rain drives latest hike in river levels

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jun 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-01 18:53:07-04

MISSOULA – For the first time this spring, heavy rains are bringing a measurable rise in Western Montana rivers.

That will mean more runoff over the weekend. However, National Weather Service forecasters say we may have turned the corner with the worst of our flooding.

Thursday’s heavy rains brought as much as an inch of rain to Missoula and the Bitterroot valleys and around two inches of rain in the Mission valley. And with rivers like the Clark Fork and the Bitterroot still running high, that heavy precipitation will have a delayed effect over the weekend.

Forecasts have the Clark Fork in Missoula cresting right at its 11-foot “moderate” flood stage on Saturday. 

“This is really what I’d call our first rain-induced rises on the river," said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Marty Whitmore. "Prior to this it was mostly snowmelt with just a little bit of rain. This was rain-induced. So, all the rivers have come up. It’s going to take a while to route that water all the way down through Missoula. So, rain has ended and it’s going to be pretty sunny, dry weather for Saturday. But that’s probably when we’ll start seeing our next peak.” 

Whitmore says once that latest crest is reached, it looks like the runoff will start trailing off as we move into next week and through the remainder of the flood season.