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SHERIDAN – The National Weather Service out of Billings, Mont., has issued a hazardous weather outlook for portions of south central Montana and north central Wyoming with severe thunderstorms possible.
Brian Tesar, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a strong weather system is moving up from the southwest and is expected to cross right over Sheridan County by late afternoon to early evening, approximately 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is a potential for heavy rain – half inch to three quarters of an inch – in 15 to 30 minutes. Wind gusts up to 60 mph are also expected.
“It’s the rainfall rates we’re concerned about. It’s just runoff, and the ground doesn’t take that when it comes down that hard,” Tesar said. “I won’t be surprised if Sheridan County is put in severe thunderstorm watch or possibly even a tornado watch.”
Tesar said thunderstorms are expected into Wednesday but Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. will be when the weather service will monitor Sheridan County and upper Big Horn County most closely.
“When small creeks and streams are at bank level, you can get some flash flooding. Anything downstream can rise, too,” Tesar said, noting that Sheridan will be on their radar.
Pete Husman, county road and bridge program manager, said county crews are aware of the potential for hazardous weather but are not worried about flooding at this point.
“We’re still well below flood stage,” Husman said.
Big Goose Creek is the only creek that could prove problematic since it rose more than one foot yesterday due to water being released over the spillway at Park Reservoir.
According to National Weather Service U.S. Geological Survey stream gauges, Big Goose Creek was at 5.02 feet as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Flood stage is 7.5 feet. The Tongue River near Dayton was at 3.29 feet, and flood stage is 6 feet.
Husman said road and bridge crews will check for debris under the bridges, will make sure pipes are not plugged and will ensure storm drains are working properly in the event of severe rain. If water is running over road, they will barricade the road to prevent traffic from going through.
If flooding should occur, the county has 40,000 sand bags and enough sand to fill them, according to Sheridan County Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Coleman. Residents can call the city police department or the county sheriff’s department to receive information on how to obtain sand bags. If it is after hours, the police and sheriff’s departments will call the after hours lines for public works and direct people on where to go.
“We are set in a very typical severe weather pattern for this time of year,” Tesar said. “It’s not an unusual pattern, but it is certainly focused on the Sheridan area.”
For more information and weather updates and alerts, visit www.weather.gov.