Prepare for Spring Flooding in Broadwater County
Again this year, we have heavy snowpack throughout the Broadwater Valley, especially within the City of Townsend, and the surrounding foothills and mountains. As of March 12, 2019, the Montana SNOTEL current snow water equivalent (SWE) percent of 1981-2010 median for the following upriver basins:
Madison River Basin 125%
Gallatin River Basin 122 %
Jefferson River Basin 111%
Two main waves of flooding risk:
- March – April – (May?) – Lowland flooding from snowmelt – Ice jams – Rain on snow
- April – May – June – Flooding of small streams and rivers due to mountain snowmelt and runoff – Flooding due to heavy rainfall
Best Case Scenario:
– Gradual Warmup
- Slow, gentle melting
– Minor Impacts
- Mostly rural roads and fields
- Ponding water in urban areas from clogged drainages
Worst Case Scenario:
– Rapidly warming temps and overnight lows above freezing
- Rapid snowmelt
- Lowland and urban flooding
- Difficult travel in rural areas due to washed out roads
– Heavy Rain (≥1”+ in 24 hours)
- Rain on snow at any elevation
What Can We Do?
- Make sandbags available.
- Encourage residents to clear snow from drains and culverts near driveways.
- Sandbag to keep floodwater out of basements and rural water wells.
- Move equipment, hay or livestock in low-lying or areas prone to flooding to higher ground.
- Encourage neighbors to help each other, especially the elderly and disabled.
- Encourage those who live near streams or rivers to purchase flood insurance if they haven’t already (30 days for it to take effect)
- Report flooding that is over roadways to the County Sheriff’s Office by using the non-emergency phone number (266-3441).
Where to Get Bags and Sand
- Broadwater County Disaster & Emergency Services (DES) has a limited supply of empty sandbags that are staged throughout the county at the various Fire Stations: Townsend, Toston, Radersburg, Duck Creek, and Winston. These sandbags are available through the Fire Chief, Ed Shindoll (266-5535) or by contacting any local firefighter.
- The Townsend City Office (110 Broadway) also has a limited supply of empty sandbags.
- Bert’s Hardware (410 Broadway) has both bags and sand for sale; and a pile of sand were you can bring your own empty bags to fill yourself with a donation to be made to Fire Department. (Thank you, Roy Hornsveld!)
- Sand can be purchased from Badger Materials east of Townsend (266-5498) or from various suppliers in Helena or Three Forks.
- In Three Forks, Seiler’s Hardware (10 S Main St) and Three Forks Lumber & Ready Mix (109 N 1st Ave E) have sand-filled bags and empty sandbags for sale.
Sandbagging Best Practices
- It is best to use sand to fill bags; if it is not available, soil will work (if not frozen).
- When filling sandbags, it is best to fill them slightly more than half-full, but not all the way.
- Half-full or 2/3 filled bags will make it easier to shape and form an effective wall against flooding.
- Sandbags are much easier to handle if they are no more than 40 pounds when filled.
- Bag filling is usually a two-person job as it will be easier for one person to hold the bag while the other fills.
- Lay plastic tarps in front of any doors or low windows and the side of the house that is threatened by flood waters; sandbags alone may not be sufficient. Bring plastic tarps as high up on the house as you expect flood waters to reach.
- Place the first row of sandbags tightly against each other.
- If your sandbags are tied, flatten the tied end; if your sandbags are not tied, tuck the flap under the sandbag.
- Place the second row of sandbags on top of the first, so each row of sandbags is staggered.
- Step on each sandbag to push them tightly into place and help seal any cracks.
- When lifting filled sandbags, keep the load in front of you and closed to your body.
- Lift with your legs, not your back. Do not over reach, bend over, or twist when lifting.
Snow, Roads, and Plows – a message from the Broadwater County Road Department
According to most people in the County that have been around for a while, this recent snow event compares to events during the late-1980’s. We haven’t had this much snow in a long time. The wind doesn’t help matters either. Blowing and drifting snow have made most of the east-west roads in the County impassable, not to mention the impact to the north-south roads that are typically not as bad.
During the winter, the road crew plows about 500 miles of County roads. The road crews have been out plowing. However, snow conditions complicated by the winds that have accompanied these storms have developed dense, deep snow drifts. As a result, plows don’t move as quickly through the drifts so it takes longer to plow these roads. Some roads drift in shortly after they’ve been plowed.
Broadwater County has a road crew of four operators and four plows. Our crew is working overtime, but the snow is simply falling fast and blowing harder than they can out-plow. They are also getting help from other departments as they are able.
We understand how difficult this is for everyone, thank you for your understanding.
The first priority for plowing are school bus routes and mail routes. Once those are cleared, other roads will be plowed.
As for driveways, if you plow across the County road, please push the snow to the south and east and be sure to clear all of your snow off of the County road. Winds are typically from the northwest, so any snow plowed onto the north and west sides of the road will just drift again.
The Broadwater County Road Department thanks the community for their understanding and patience. If you have any questions, please call Public Works at 980-2055.
Broadwater County was named for Colonel Charles Broadwater and made an official county by the Montana Legislature in 1897. Broadwater County is roughly defined by the Big Belt Mountains to the east and north, the Elkhorn Mountains to the west, and the Horseshoe Hills to the south.
Townsend is the county seat and the only incorporated city in the county, although we have several other communities, including the Silos area, Toston, Radersburg, the Wheatland area, and Winston.
Acres within Broadwater County – 796,000
Private land – 515,000 acres
Public land (State and Federal) – 281,000 acres
The population in 2010 was 5,612, with 1,878 living in the City of Townsend & 989,415 in the state. In the 1990’s Broadwater County experienced the third highest population growth in Montana, behind Ravalli and Gallatin counties.