By Tim Leeds 

Flood watch continues at Fort Belknap communities


With flood watches still in effect through the weekend, a close eye is being kept on high water at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

Flooding on People's Creek led to flooding in Hays and Lodge Pole on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Saturday. Some residents were evacuated.

Most residents were able to return home by Monday.

Avis Spencer, public information officer for the Fort Belknap incident command center, said this morning that the situation has not changed much since the weekend, except for flood damage to another bridge leading to single-lane traffic only on Montana State Highway 66 through the reservation.

The National Weather Service has flood watches in effect for much of central Montana, and in Blaine County, through Saturday afternoon.

Hill County remains in a flood advisory, the next step down from a flood watch, through Saturday.

The forecast calls for a chance of rain showers every day through Sunday in Hill and Blaine counties.

The flood watch in the region includes Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Judith Basin and Meagher counties.

Spencer said the road restrictions on Highway 66 includes it being closed to semi and wide-load traffic, which are being rerouted along U. S. Highway 2 and U. S. Highway 191.

The Montana Department of Transportation had listed Highway 66 as closed to through traffic across the reservation Monday.

Spencer said a close watch is being kept on the Hays and Lodge Pole areas, where the ground is completely saturated. Fort Belknap personnel are conducting housing assessments in the two towns and are holding daily meetings for updates.

She added that a mudslide or landslide had been reported in the Little Chief Canyon in the Little Rocky Mountains, and reservation officials would meet later with a Bureau of Indian Affairs engineer who will assess that situation.

A representative of U. S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., was scheduled to meet with reservation officials and residents this morning, one of 12 meetings the senator's staff members are holding in flooded areas around the state.

Hill County has avoided much of the problem, although rain has caused some work to protect buildings in the county, Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator Joe Parenteau said this morning.

Parenteau said about 2.5 inches in rain in the central part of the county over the weekend led to flooding concerns in Gildford Colony. Hill County provided sandbags to help residents protect threatened buildings, he said.

Beaver Creek Reservoir is full, and water has been going over the spillway for some time. Parenteau said that, although it is doing its job and holding most of the runoff, there is not much the county can do to control the outflow at this point.

He said any problems that could arise depends on where rain falls, and how much falls. The creeks and streams in the county are generally bank-full, and flooding could occur.

"People need to be aware that things can change quickly at any time, " he said.


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