Predicted flooding averted, thanks to shift in heavy rainfall

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, May 31, 2018
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SCN photo by Marlo Pronovost
            The Yellowstone River filled much of the field between the bridge at Itch-Kep-Pe Park and a home near Montana Silversmith’s Monday.

Concerns about the Stillwater and Yellowstone Rivers rising above flood levels in recent days were not realized, thanks to lower than expected rainfall.

While one storm Monday afternoon unleashed torrential — but short-lived — rainfall and hail in Columbus, less then an inch was recorded throughout the entire county. That was well below the predicted 1.5 to 2 inches across the Upper Yellowstone Basin and Still-water Basin the National Weather Service (NWS) had initially predicted.

“Instead, the heavy rainfall was displaced 100 to 150 miles southeast of this region and impacted Big Horn County and Sheridan County, Wyo., where 2 to 4 inches of rainfall was observed,” said NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tom Frieders. “We still have high flows from mountain snowmelt…but no significant flooding on the Stillwater or the Yellowstone at Billings.”

The Yellowstone River has been chocolate-milk to gravy-colored and high for more than a week, due to snowpack melt and more than five inches of rain that has fallen in May. Of that total, 2.39 inches fell in Columbus between May 22 and May 24. Normal rainfall for May is 2.53 inches, according to the NWS.

During the past several days, minor flooding was seen from the Yellowstone River in Columbus, with Itch-Kep-Pe Park being closed last Wednesday and water filling the small field on the opposite side of the road, near Montana Silversmiths.

Earlier in the week, Indian Fort Campground in Reed Point was “severely flooded” and the road was in danger of being washed out, according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s dispatch records. Flooding was also reported on Longhorn Drive in Columbus. Deputies and Columbus Fire Rescue were called upon to clear flood debris from a driveway leading to a house off the Joliet Road, where the occupants were stranded.

A mudslide across Stillwater River Road and Crazy Bear Road was reported last Tuesday, May 22, requiring county and state road crews to plow it off the road, according to dispatch records. There were also reports of water pooling or flowing across roads in southern Stillwater County.

From 6 p.m. on May 27 through 11 a.m. on May 28 (from the NWS)

Columbus (3 miles south) .62 inches Fishtail (3.1 west) .59 inches Columbus (6 miles south southeast) .59 inches Fishtail (18.1 miles south west) .49 inches Park City (6 miles west southwest) .44 inches Park City (.5 miles south) .32 inches Columbus (7.5 miles east) .21 inches Absarokee (.6 south) .07 inches Reed Point (5 miles southeast) .05 inches