May 27, 2011 8:27 PM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News
MUSSELSHELL RIVER - It was early this week when flooding on the Musselshell River began swallowing communities in our area. Roads are closed and people are still evacuated from their homes, as the river continues to flow above flood stage.
Golden Valley County Sheriff Floyd Fisher says water has started to recede on Hwy 3, but it's still closed. Six families on the south side of Ryegate are still evacuated. He's says they're still well equipped and "just waiting for the next storm."
Meanwhile, in Wheatland County, the sheriff's office says the Musselshell River is going down. It's currently at 8.43 feet, flood stage is 7 feet. The highest point the river reached this week was about 10 feet. No evacuations are in order.
Q2's Angela Douglas and Paul Humphrey toured the flooded area from a helicopter Friday morning for an aerial view of the overall impact. From county to county along the Musselshell River, the scene from overhead shows miles and miles destruction. People's livelihoods now underwater.
"Anywhere along the river, it's out of its banks," says Musselshell County Commissioner Larry Lekse. "Still out of its banks and we don't see any relief for awhile."
Flooding in Roundup began early Thursday morning and its the hardest community along the river. The biggest issue the city is facing right now is obviously the flood water, but the biggest concern is now drinking water.
"We've contacted DES and the state and we're getting water purchased and brought in," explains Musselshell County Disaster and Emergency Services Director Jeff Gates. "We have two to three days, maybe four days in our cistern now."
Roundup Public Works Director Lon Sibley says there are rumors that they are shutting off the water, but that it's not true.
"We aren't, and the water is fine. We're using it out of our storage tank now," explains Sibley. "But if they would just conserve water and not waste any, the longer the water will last."
In addition to water, food, and medical supplies, there's other concerns that are growing the longer the town remains cutoff from main road travel.
"Garbage collection, they can't get here to pick up our garbage that we're hauling," says Sibley. "Our sewers, our lift stations are down, so yeah, pretty much everything we deal with."
As for relief efforts, Gates says the water has to go down before recovering can begin.
"Until we get into the cleanup stage and the water actually goes down, there's not a lot we can do with the stuff that's already flooded," Gates says. "The best thing we can do right now, is we're trying to divert it and try to keep things from flooding other places."
"The original Old Milwaukee Railroad tracks act as a buffer and a dike between the river and the community here, so we're in the process of trying to rebuild that right now to shut off the water coming into Roundup," Lekse explains. "Once we can accomplish that, then we can start pumping the water out."
Until then, the city is managing the best it can.
"It's just a waiting game at this time," Gates says.
Lekse adds, "Things just change daily and we try to deal with them on that basis."
Upstream, Petroleum County Sheriff Bill Cassell says 20 families are affected by flooding from the Musselshell River.
Sheriff Cassell says the extent of flood damage varies and only a few have evacuated their homes.
Currently the water is flowing at 13.7 feet, earlier this week it hit 16 feet. Flood stage is 8 feet.
Sheriff Cassell says they're estimating about $1.5M in damage to infrastructure and county roads.