Flooding still likely in eastern Blaine County
Things are looking better in the Harlem area this morning, but Blaine County officials say flooding still is likely by this weekend, including the possibility of flooding in Harlem and Chinook.
"We're prepared for that, as good as we can be if it does happen, " Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller said this morning in an interview by telephone while he was inspecting stream and river levels. "Obviously, we're hoping it won't. "
Blaine County has been bracing for flooding for several weeks, with extremely high moisture in the snow in the northern part of the county — and in Hill County — creating the possibility of rapidly rising stream and river levels.
The National Weather Service has had a flood warning in effect for the Harlem area since late last week.
Its latest update, at 5 a. m. today, warned of the river rising above the 21-foot flood level this morning, and continuing to gradually rise to as high as 22 feet.
The cool weather has been helping, reducing melting during the night and allowing stream levels to drop periodically, he said.
Another problem caused by the rising stream levels, the breach of the dam at Swank Reservoir near Zurich, has been resolved for the moment. Miller said the dam has been temporarily repaired, due to the fast work of the federal Bureau of Land Management and Moxley Construction.
That breach had not impacted Zurich, although people had been urged to use caution when in the area downstream from the dam.
Miller said the water levels continue to rise and fall, with the levels of the tributaries of the Milk down this morning, including Thirty Mile Creek, but expected to rise again by evening.
He said Thirty Mile Creek north of Harlem has been overflowing its banks, but generally dropping below flood levels again by evening. Wednesday, the residents of two homes near the creek left for a few hours when it appeared it would flood the residences, he said.
He said the snow in the flatland in the northern part of the county has started to melt off, beginning in the Hogeland area. That water soon will be flowing into the Milk River.
He said that the river level is expected to peak over the weekend, and, hopefully, in a week or 10 days the situation should be back to normal, flood-wise.
Miller said the county has prepared to evacuate residents of Harlem and Chinook if necessary, and has been in touch with the Red Cross as part of that preparation.
"We are prepared for that eventuality if we need to (evacuate), " he said.
People with questions, concerns or reports of flooding can call him — the County Commissioner office can be reached at 357-3250 — or Laurie Huestis in the county Disaster and Emergency Services office at 357-3310, Miller said.
"We appreciate the public helping us and the media helping us, " he added.