Unusual August Flooding Takes Valley County By Surprise
Valley County isn't a stranger to flooding. The occurrence of flooding is about once every two and a half years according to records at the Glasgow National Weather Service.
Usually those floods take place in spring as the snow melts into the rivers and creeks that surround the area. This time an unusual amount of rain fell later in the summer, catching everyone a little off guard. A major difference from the 2011 flood is that the waters came fast and are receding quickly. Flood waters in 2011 remained for several weeks.
Weird Weather Occurrence
NWS Glasgow Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Tanja Fransen explained that they had a pretty busy weekend tracking the storm, but residents were given a 24-hour warning on the flooding that occurred. The rainfall from Aug. 21-24 totaled around 8 inches in some areas. The precipitations was caused by a very slow moving low pressure system that had a high pressure system on to the east and west. The system carried a lot of moisture.
"This was very unusual for August," Fransen said. "The last time there was flooding in early fall or late summer was in October of 1986."
The precipitation and storm system also broke several records set for this time of year. Sunday's high of 52 degrees was the second coldest daytime high on record for an August day. In 1992, the record was set in August with a temp of 47 degrees for the high. The rain that fell in four days was the most rain to ever occur at the NWS Glasgow, with 5.26 inches recorded. On Saturday, Aug. 23, the rainfall record of 2.41 inches beat the record of 0.84 inches set in 1932.
With all those records, Fransen said that Hinsdale flooding could be some of the worst on record. Beaver Creek and Larb Creek overflowed, causing lots of water spilling over roadways and covering fields and creeping up on houses. While the flooding seemed severe around the Cherry Creek area on Sunday, it actually did not rise higher than the 2011 flood.
"Unlike the 2011 flood, residents only had a 24-hour warning, in 2011 they had three or four months to prepare," Fransen said.
Fransen did comment that residents seemed to be better prepared this time and knew what to do when the flooding occurred. She also said that the deep moisture and colder air isn't something normally seen in the area.
The forecast does have isolated thunderstorms, but those storms usually don't drop the amount of moisture seen and it isn't as wide spread. Hopefully some of the drier weather in the next few days will help dry out local crops and allow farmers to get back on track with the harvest season.
Crops Could Take A Hit
Crop damage won't be known just yet as farmers and officials wait for the waters to recede. They'll be taking note of what's left behind. County Executive Director of the Valley County FSA (Farm Service Agency) Mike Hagfeldt explained that crop insurance will come in handy for those who might have lost their crops by flooding. He said that they are waiting to assess the damage before they decide to start the paperwork for the ECP (Emergency Conservation Program).
Reports from farmers will help them determine how much damage there actually is. They will have to determine if they are able to apply for funding through the ECP that will help with the clean up and leveling fields out in a flood. While they applied for assistance in 2011, much of the funding wasn't available due to the statewide flooding and damage.
"We had over 100 applicants in 2011," Hagfeldt said.
Concerns are focused towards the harvest this year. He explained that the extra moisture, without flooding, during this time of year can reduce the protein and bleach out the crops, causing lower prices or total losses in some cases. He said that several areas are going to be waiting until harvest and could be facing frost problems.
"If it stays cool and damp, it can cause further damage not yet foreseen," Hagfeldt said.
Farmers can call the Glasgow USDA FSA office at 406-228-4321 to report damage.
A resolution passed through the Valley County Commissioners on Monday and through the Glasgow Mayor Becky Erickson that declared an emergency. The resolution allows the county and the city to work with government agencies to obtain equipment and access funding to help with infrastructure and flood damage.
Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Seiler explained that currently the flood damage hasn't exceeded a level to require assistance from FEMA. Currently the damage has been fairly minimal but cost figures have yet to be totaled as the assessment will continue as waters recede.
"At 3 a.m. this morning the water level was at 31.75; it was down to 31.35 recently," Seiler said referring to the level at the Milk River in the Glasgow area.
Beaver Creek area had pretty heavy waters filling the area in Hinsdale, but he said that as the water levels have dropped they haven't seen any major damage yet. As of Tuesday evening, the worst damage was on Willow Creek Road, where a culvert 4 feet in height and 120 feet long was washed from the roadway. On Tuesday, crews worked to place a small pipe across the roadway and bulldoze some dirt over it to allow local access only for smaller vehicles and pickups.
Cherry Creek area along Skylark and Cutacross roads had a rapid flood Sunday. While those roadways were closed Sunday evening and a portion of Monday, they are now reopened, along with Oberg and Bentonite roads. Roads that are still closed are 6th Avenue South and Johnson, Vandalia, Billingsly, Beaverton, Gilbertson and Beaver Creek roads.
Luckily the flood forecast shows waters receding across Valley County. Flooding was seen in Nashua and Glasgow, along the Milk River, in Hinsdale, near Frazer, along Willow Creek, Tampico and other low lying areas in the county. Flooding was also a problem in Phillips County, closing schools in Saco on Monday.
As damages are assessed by agencies home owners and residents need to be aware of issues that can affect local health. Valley County Sanitarian Cam Shipp explained that Cherry Creek has had issues in the past after a flood. Residents need to think about sanitizing wells and being cautious of contaminated waters.
"Even if your well sits high up, it doesn't mean you shouldn't sanitize," Shipp said. "Upstream wells can become contaminated and you might be pulling water out of the same aquifer."
Wastewater from septic systems, oil and other chemicals can seep into the ground after a flood. Well water testing kits are available at the Valley County MSU Extension Office in the Valley County Courthouse. Shipp said that you should think about your daily activities before using water. Think twice before using the ice from your fridge, brushing your teeth and using water to prep food. Also be cautious of the water you may be giving your pets and animals. He recommends cleaning out your filtration systems and filters per manufacturer's recommendations.
Other issues that can be a concern are drainfields. Septic tanks can float out of the ground during a flood, which can lead to damaged outlet and inlet pipes. Pumping out the tank could cause more problems. He recommends leaving a system alone to settle as waters recede and allow time for the soil to dry out.
Ways to reduce water around a drain field are to keep sump pump water from a basement out of the septic system, reroute water from roof gutters away from the drainfield and limit your use of water. Homeowners should plug drains in the basement. Avoid any digging around the drainfield area while the soil is wet or still flooded. Also avoid contact with electrical devices that are part of the system until they are dry.
Final cleanup worries you might not find for several months after a flood. Mold has a tendency to grown in small and unseen places. Where moisture can be found, many times mold will follow. Some mold can cause asthma or allergies and will make you feel like you're suffering from the common cold. The real worry comes with toxic mold.
"You should be proactive and get on it," Shipp said. "Get it down and take care of it right away."
Most mold can be identified by a musty smell. Testing isn't normally recommended for mold because it can be expensive. Instead get down on your knees and look around areas that were exposed to moisture. Drying water damaged areas within 48 hours of exposure to water can help prevent mold. While homeowners can clean small areas, it's recommended large exposures, more than a few square feet, should be left to professionals.
Be sure to use rubber gloves and a protective mask and dampen moldy materials to help minimize airborne spores. Clean surfaces with non-ammonia soap or detergent. Be sure other materials that are porous are replaced, such as drywall, carpeting and padding.
Information on mold, drainfields and well testing are available at the extension office. Anyone with questions can also contact Shipp at 228-6264.