SHERIDAN — Frozen ground, heavy snowpack and temperatures creeping 10 to 15 degrees above average over the weekend will lead to a potential for low-land flooding and ice jams around Sheridan County.
The predicted high temperature for today is 51 degrees and 58 degrees for Sunday.
The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service has posted several flood alerts for areas surrounding the county, especially in south-central Montana.
It issued a hazardous weather outlook for potential flooding and ice jams in the Bighorn Mountains and Sheridan foothills from today through Thursday.
Frozen ground will allow little water from melting snow to soak in, creating ideal conditions for run-off and low-land flooding.
In Sheridan, City Engineer Lane Thompson said city crews have encountered isolated incidents of flooding because of rapid snowmelt but that most streets are clear and storm drains are working.
The city is watching for ice jams in the creeks and will continue to monitor conditions as temperatures rise over the weekend, Thompson said.
Additionally, the Sheridan Police Department will monitor streams 24 hours a day. If anyone encounters flooding, he or she should report it to the police and avoid driving through flooded areas.
County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger said Upper Road south of the airport and west of Big Horn Avenue had approximately four sections that overtopped with water runoff Friday. The road was closed for several hours Friday morning.
Liesinger said the culprit was frozen culverts and snow filled ditches that were unable to convey water to the opposite side of the road. He said county crews are working in several typically problematic areas including Soldier Creek near 17th Street and Fort Road and the low-lying Downer Addition.
“With the ground still frozen, none of the melting or thawing snow can percolate into the ground. With so much runoff, it creates more problems for us, and with the rain crews were out doing what they could,” Liesinger said. “It’s not unusual for spring to do that to us.”
At 9:30 a.m. Friday, gauges in Goose Creek in Sheridan said water levels were at 3.98 feet. Flood stage is 7.5 feet. Levels in the creek rose 2.38 feet in 24 hours from 10 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday. However, as of Friday afternoon, levels had dropped to 3.5 feet.
The gauge in the Tongue River near Monarch read 8.07 feet Friday morning, which is a half-foot shy of the record 8.5 feet set in June 2007. There was no flood stage data, but Liesinger said he had not heard of any flood concerns in that area.
Liesinger said residents in Downer Addition and on Leopard Street south of Loucks Street had called Friday to inquire about sand bags.
Later Friday, the County Public Works Department announced it has sand and sand bags available at the Road and Bridge Shop, located at 48 Short Road. Residents can fill bags at the shop as needed from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or call Connie Bennick at 674-2930 for more information.
If sand bags are needed outside that time frame, or to volunteer to fill sand bags, call the Sheridan County Public Works office at 674-2920.