By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Flood Reports from Valley County Ranchers

 

Recent flooding throughout Valley and Phillips counties have had impacts on low lying areas, drowning out hay bales and alfalfa seed as well as covering roads. The Courier spoke with local ranchers and farmers affected by the flooding to get their reports on this problematic fall weather.

West of Hinsdale, Mark and Heidi Johnson have been ranching for some time. Mr. Johnson grew up ranching since the 1950s and Heidi married onto the ranch some 25 years ago. They provided insight not only on this year's flooding, but of fears of a new yearly trend.

"It's really kind of scary, this might be the new normal," said Mrs. Johnson. "It used to be people would say 'this is the worst flooding in 50 or 75 years.'" She pointed out that they have experienced either minor or major flooding every year since 2011, and that flooding twice a year has also been a trend that may change the way they farm in coming years. Mr. Johnson said those effects are starting to compound, "We still haven't gotten alfalfa back in some fields from the 2011 flooding, and this year isn't going to help fix that."


Mrs. Johnson discussed the effects of the hay getting wet while baled or stacked: "We've been surprised we haven't had issues, but some people we know have had hay stacks burst into flames, because they have been too wet and too hot." The Johnsons are also concerned that the high water in the Milk River this fall may interfere with the need to move grazing cattle to market across the river. Mrs. Johnson believes this may be a new trend that ranchers in the area may have to adjust to moving forward. Mr. Johnson said, "It's a tough choice because you can't predict the weather. We can't say if its changing to a twice a year deal or not, it's confusing."

Wittmayer Grazing Association President Leonard Swenson reports that this year's flooding doesn't seem to be threatening structures or homes in the area near his home on the west end of Glasgow. He adds that it seems like the flooding will mostly affect fields and hay stores, but that it, "Won't drown out as much as the summer flood had." He said he was aware of some log jams near the Tampico bridge, but that they were already broken up by crews in the area.

Hinsdale area rancher Sherman Lacock said, "It isn't major flooding [here], but its awful close," he said as of Oct. 10. At that time, Lacock was not sure of any negative effects in his area from the current flooding other than the aforementioned hay bales and fields.


Nashua rancher Roger Trang wasn't aware of flooding in his area, outside the immediate river banks and vicinity. Trang thought the waters appeared to be receding as of Oct. 11. "I don't think Nashua has had much flooding, and it doesn't look like it's going to cause any issues here," said Trang.

The Courier would like to stress that the reports and suppositions offered here are anecdotal. For up-to-the minute flood information from the National Weather Service, visit water.weather.gov/ahps2/index.php?wfo=ggw or call the NWS Glasgow office at 406-228-2850.

 

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