Forecasters are predicting water to rise above the flood level on the Milk River in Harlem, and potentially Chinook, by the end of the week.
The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch in Blaine County for the Harlem area, with the potential for water in the streets of that town, and possibly Chinook, by next week.
While conditions are changing hourly, and the latest warnings have pushed the estimated time of potential flooding back by several days, officials are warning local residents to be watchful. Conditions could change at any time.
In Hill County, Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau said conditions seem to be improving in this county, although weather could lead to more rising water levels especially in the northeastern part of the county.
“It is very possible we may have dodged that bullet, ” Parenteau said.
Comments from Blaine County officials were not available by deadline this morning.
Officials in Blaine County reported to the Weather Service at 8:16 a. m. today that Thirty Mile Creek north of Harlem continues to overflow its banks. Thirty Mile Road is closed north of Harlem due to water washing out the road, and Wayne Creek, Savoy Creek and Eureka Creek are at or near the tops of their banks, as is the the Milk River east of Harlem to the Phillips County line.
People are urged to report any rising water levels to the Weather Service or county officials.
Parenteau said representatives of the Weather Service will be in Hill County tomorrow in a related issue, trying to recruit severe storm and weather spotters.
The Weather Service before 5 this morning had issued a warning that the Milk River could be above flood stage — 21 feet — at Harlem by Wednesday. The level of the Milk could have reached 41 feet, which historically has led to flooding in the streets of Harlem and Chinook, by Thursday.
Later this morning, that flood prediction had been upgraded. The chance of the river rising to flood levels at 21 feet was set for Friday, with the chance of the river hitting 24 feet pushed back to a week from Tuesday.
The river was reported to be at a level of 18.5 feet at 8:30 this morning.
Fresno Reservoir this morning reported being at 100-percent full, with the flood-control pool 32-percent full. The Bureau of Reclamation reported releasing 1,600 cubic-feet-per-second from the reservoir, with 1,331 cubic-feet-per-second coming in.
National and local officials have been preparing for the worst, with near-record levels of moisture in the heavy snowpack, over high levels of moisture in the soil. Rapid snow melt or rain over the snow could have created severe flood events in the Milk River and its drainage.
That water has been melting relatively slowly, causing some lowland flooding both on Beaver Creek in Hill County and on the Milk in eastern Blaine County as well as in its drainages.
The weather this week is likely to create continued rising water levels on the Milk. Highs are forecast in the 60s today and 40s and 50s through the rest of the week, with a chance of rain and snow in the middle of the week.
People are urged to use caution when approaching flooded areas, and to avoid driving over any roadway with floodwater running over it.
“We still advise people not to drive through moving water, ” Parenteau said.
He said the situation on roads in Hill County seems to be improving, including some flooded roads starting to dry out. That situation still could change, he added.
“Increased flows, and higher flows, still could happen, ” he said.