After a relatively dry winter and early spring, a weather pattern is bringing enough rain to the area that National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for north-central Montana.
The storm that socked in Wednesday evening is expected to bring two more inches of rain — up to three in the southern parts of the Bear Paw Mountains — from this morning through Friday evening.
Both Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Joe Parenteau and Blaine County DES Coordinator Haley Gustitis said they are closely watching the situation.
“Right now, I’m just watching it. I don’t have huge concerns, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” Gustitis said. adding that water is starting to run off in the Bear Paws.
Parenteau said he expects much of the rain to soak into the ground, but it eventually will start to run off and swell stream levels.
“Hopefully, it is a good thing, and we won’t get anything bad,” he said.
As of 6 a.m. today, Weather Service reported .72 inches of rain fell in the previous 24 hours at its reporting station at the Havre City-County Airport.
The forecast of continued steady rain led to the flood watch for the region, in effect through Friday as of this morning, including for Blaine, Chouteau, Hill and Liberty counties.
The notice says most streams are below their banks at this point, but the steady rain expected could cause levels to rise quickly.
Parenteau said the county has some gauges to monitor stream levels in some areas, but county officials rely on weather spotters and people in the area to report any swelling streams or flooding.
Gustitis said the same is true for Blaine County.
“We really rely on people to call in and let us know what’s going on, because we can’t be everywhere,” she said.
The Weather Service flood watch notice also says people should monitor updates to the watch, and in case of a flood warning or of their observing rising stream levels be prepared to take action.
The flood watch notice says the watch means that the forecast raises the possibility of flooding — if flooding becomes likely or is occurring the notice will be updated.
Parenteau also said people should monitor the local warnings, including on the Havre Daily News website and Facebook page and on local radio stations and the Weather Service weather radio system.
He added that people should avoid driving through or walking across running water in case of flooding.
“Best to be careful rather than to be washed away,” he said.