Public safety officials hold sand bagging class in advance of expected floods

Officials warn of flooding along Pend Oreille Rive
Public safety officials hold sand bagging class in advance of expected floods

On Wednesday public safety officials on the Kalispel Tribal Reservation held a sand bagging how-to in advance of expected floods.

“Currently what we are seeing right now is a direct result of the snowpack that is melting currently in Montana,” said Joe Maroney, Director of Fisheries and Water Resources for the tribe.

He says early warm weather plus higher than normal snowpacks have prompted peak river flows about a month earlier than anticipated.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Pend Oreille river had risen half a foot compared to Tuesday and was flowing at around 82,000 cubic feet per second. Maroney says by the weekend it will likely hit 100,000 cfs and by next week hit 119,000 cfs, just shy of moderate flood levels of 120,000 cfs as set forth by the NOAA.

That flow hasn’t been that high since 2011 when the area experienced flooding, requiring the tribe to cancel its Forth of July celebration and its annual powwow because of how much of the flood plain the tribal land sits on was underwater.

“If you flooded in 2011, there’s likelihood you will flood this year,” said Maroney. “By next week the river could likely rise four feet, maybe five.”

With the expected flows expected to peak next week, and potentially get worse if weather gets warmer or if it continues to rain, officials want folks living on the flood plain or along the river to get prepared early and lay sand bags to protect their homes.

“If we need to,” said Tom Ling, Kalispel Public Safety Operations Specialist, “we will go door to door to tell people the flood is coming.”

He says the tribe has already begun to sandbag its bison barns.

On Friday at 6 p.m. officials from the Army Corps of Engineers and representatives from the County and National Weather Service will be holding a public meeting to discuss water levels, flows, dam operations and flooding potentials for the area. That meeting will be held at the Cusick High School gym.

Sand and bags are available by the boat ramp.