Ten Mile Creek overflowing onto a Green Meadow Drive property
As Montana’s rivers continue to swell with higher-than-average rainfall, as the torrents wash out banks and spread out into the flood plains, as people evacuate their homes, as others yet mourn the loss of a dear neighbor and friend, Helenans living along creeks are starting to face their own scaled-down version of the crisis.
A quick drive around town turns up several spots along Ten Mile and Prickly Pear creeks where waters have risen almost to bridges and have otherwise fanned out into adjacent fields. Ten Mile Creek has spread to within about thirty feet of a home on Green Meadow Drive. Someone has bulldozed a layer of topsoil to create a barrier and stacked a short wall of sand bags at the edge of the lawn as waters threaten to overrun even that.
Prickly Pear Creek encroaching on Anders' back yard
Out York Road, long-time resident Connie Anders says Prickly Pear is higher than she’s seen in 18 years of living at this location abutting the creek. The property flooded in 1982, before she arrived, so she knows it’s possible again. Water is creeping into her yard at a rate of a couple feet a day. On Wednesday evening, it was within about a dozen yards of her house and her humble antique business, Connie’s Cranberry Corner.
Since Sunday, Anders has been walking back and forth between the house and the creek and monitoring it from her kitchen window.
“It may not be roaring as much right now,” she said looking at the murky, rushing water. “But at about midnight, it was really clipping.”
She says her neighbors recently set off down the creek after a calf being swept downstream. She doesn’t know whether they were able to retrieve it.
Neighbors, customers and friends have begun stopping by and calling to make sure she’s okay and to offer help if or when she needs it. Anders was in remarkably high spirits and joked (or pretended to joke) that her friends are the same age as her and might “have a tough time with sandbags.”
Water rising on Floweree Drive
Water from Ten Mile and Prickly Pear creeks intersect near the big curve where Floweree Drive becomes Sierra Road. In this area, water is flowing fast and backing up at culverts, flooding the police-academy yards and adjacent farmland. In places, it looks as though another foot of water would cause the creek to reach some houses and outbuildings.
According to resident Rick Tryan, the water tables are fairly high in this area anyway. He grows hay and runs cows on his property and knows the ways of the land he works. With the extra moisture, he’s had to begin pumping his crawlspace but said he and the neighbors aren’t overly concerned. However, he did note that, when the water has been high in the past, it has torn up the banks and diversion channels pretty badly, tearing off chunks of sod as big as trucks.
“But I’ve never seen it this high before,” he said, “and I’ve been here twenty-some years.”
More rain is predicted for the coming days.
According to Paul Spengler, the county’s disaster and emergency-services coordinator, sand and sand bags are available at Helena Sand and Gravel and Valley Construction Excavating Sand and Gravel. However, don’t expect sand bags to be free. The Vigilante called for prices and was quoted the following rates per sand bag.