NewsMontana News


Ice jams cause flooding in Fishtail for second time this year

Ice Jam
Posted at 10:25 AM, Dec 27, 2022

FISHTAIL - The small town of Fishtail has been hit with some serious flooding for the second time in a year, but this time it's due to ice jams.

Ice jams occur when the temperature drastically changes. Over the weekend, some places in Montana saw nearly an 80-degree increase including Fishtail.

The flooding happened during the afternoon on Christmas Eve, and for business owners like Andy Simpson, it was difficult to relive some of the tragedy that happened this summer.

“It hit the bridge, didn’t have anywhere to go so it kind of hung a right and came here," Simpson said. "Hit the building, hit neighbors' houses, hit the post office. It’s just been an extreme year of flooding."

Simpson's business is right on the main road of downtown Fishtail. They lost internet connection and some railing outside of their building, but he knows it could've been much worse.

“We’re kind of blessed," Simpson said. "You take the neighbors who’ve had their basements filled up with ice or decks taken away and flooding in their homes, that’s the bad deal."

It's a unique version of flash flooding — one that brings huge chunks of ice along with the rushing water. For Simpson and other Fishtail residents like Charity Stephens, it was shocking to see how quickly the water ran its course.

“I think what was most surprising for us is that this... this happened in 30 minutes,” Stephens said as she pointed to what used to be her backyard now covered in ice. “That shift in temperature caused ice to melt very quickly and it just released all of the ice off of the West Rosebud [River] causing kind of a tidal wave you would say."

Stephens works as an EMS in the area, and once she knew her home was safe, she and her family sprang into action.

“Once we kind of got our stuff stabilized, I said, 'let's go!' and we all just hopped into our Tahoe and drove into town,” Stephens said.

It's a dramatic ending to what's already been a dramatic year for Fishtail, but the residents have pride in how their people have responded.

“As a community, we’ve seen it all this year – fires and floods – but we’ve also seen a huge step up from our community,” Stephens said.

"It's just another bump in the road, but when you’ve got good friends and neighbors, you can always overcome,” Simpson said.