Ravalli County set to declare emergency because of heavy snow

Posted at 6:10 AM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-28 08:10:42-05

HAMILTON – Ravalli County commissioners are ready to declare a state of emergency because of this week’s heavy snows, allowing agencies and departments to activate their plans for dealing with what is likely the biggest snow in a century.

The declaration is expected to be signed on Thursday morning and will detail the problems in the Bitterroot — ranging from closed schools to impossible plowing to the threat of flooding.

With anywhere from two to three feet of snow now blanketing not just the foothills, but the valley floor, the battle against the drifts is getting pretty desperate in Ravalli County.  And it’s not just the problems right now, but what could be coming that has the county worried.

Two years ago we were standing outside the Corvallis Fire Station here was residents were frantically filling sandbags because of the flooding that happened on Willow Creek. The county is worried about that same scenario, and this time around there’s more snow.”

Ravalli County Snow Flooding
The declaration is expected to detail the problems in the Bitterroot — ranging from closed schools to impossible plowing to the threat of flooding. (MTN News photo)

“We’ve been talking with some of our partners trying to set up some coordination as to, if we have a big increase in temperatures, let’s get together and get some planning going for how we’re going to help the community survive this melt off and potential flood,” Ravalli County Emergency Management Director Eric Hoover said.

In the past, that sudden melt off and flooding has impacted just about every corner of the Bitterroot. Two years ago it was the Corvallis area, with creeks overflowing their banks and ice endangering roads and bridges.

But it was exactly five years ago — coming off the record February snows of 2014 — that a sudden warmup combined with heavy rains inundated neighborhoods in the Eight Mile drainage east of Florence.

The concern is that the later in the winter we get a big snow, the more likely it could be followed by a spike in temperatures–  and rain.

Ravalli County Snow
The Bitterroot Valley is delaing with record snow in some communities. (MTN News photo)

“It’s a time of the year that we could have either real low temperatures. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see temperatures in the 50s and 60s,” Hoover said. “So that’s what we’re kind of hoping doesn’t happen. We’d sure like to see a slow warm up.”

The county’s advice is for property owners to review what they learned from those past incidents, and make what preparations they can.

“Emergency services can’t control where the water goes. We can just help kind of mitigate some of the issues. So, if you were dealing with that a couple of years ago chances are that if we have a warm-up you’re going to be seeing the same type of effects,” Hoover told MTN News.

Hoover says the county is working to organize a meeting to review those contingency plans next week.