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Q2 Weather Update: Late May downpour replays history

Posted at 11:54 AM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 13:54:46-04

As it turns out, we here in Billings and in fact many places around the area, are no strangers to very rainy days at this time of year. Turning back the clocks exactly 7 years to 2011 we find the rainiest day in the history of the Magic City. May 24, 2011 saw 3.12 inches of rain fall here in Billings. This surpassed the previous record of 2.91 inches that fell on June 8, 1997.

Billings was not the only place that received a heavy dose of rain back in 2011. Ryegate saw 1.5-2 inches, Wheatland saw 1.29-1.81 inches, and there was over an inch and a half at Roundup.

The result of this rainfall was some pretty spectacular waterfalls cascading off the rims that also washed rocks down onto the roads, closing Zimmerman trail. Cars stalled out in deep waters as low lying intersections accumulated feet of water in a very short period of time.

The flooding outlook was slightly different, as the Yellowstone at Billings was well below flood stage at this time. There was however flooding along the Yellowstone in other places like Forsyth, Miles City and Glendive.

While not quite an all time record breaker, yesterday’s deluge was enough to set the daily precipitation here in Billings. And while the hail tends to grab your attention and can certainly do a lot of damage, the amount of moisture heading into our river basins will likely have a bigger impact on our communities in the coming days.

Here in Billings there was 1.54 inches of rain and places in the surrounding areas had a very similar experience. There was 1.15 inches in Big Timber, 1.61” in Columbus, 1.10” in Miles City, 1.70” in Joliet, and over 2 inches in Red Lodge.

All the rain is impacting our area’s river basins and will combine with a warm weekend forecast to push some of the regional tributaries closer to flood stage.

The Yellowstone River in Billings will crest by tomorrow and will peak at a level just breaching the criteria for minor flooding. The Clarks Fork River at Edgar is expected to get close to moderate flood stage and approach the all time record high water level of 9.3’ in a similar time frame.

Heading further downstream, the Yellowstone at Miles city is expected to reach minor flood stage by later in the day on Saturday.

In the western portion of our region there are concern along the Shields and Yellowstone Rivers near Livingston, where moderate and near minor flooding are expected over the course of the weekend. The Boulder River near Big Timber is also expected to approach minor flooding stage in this time.

The Musselshell River at Harlowtown, Shawmut and Lavina continues to be in flood stage with major flood levels being exceeded at Shawmut and no water recession in the immediate forecast.

As always, if you come across flooded roads in the coming days and are uncertain of the depth of the water, do not attempt to drive across them. If you see flooding, call your local county extension to be directed to the appropriate authority.

Stay safe, stay dry, and enjoy the warm temperatures forecast for the next couple of days.