East Helena flooding
It started about 8:00am this morning with water spilling over a failed dike on top of the Ash Grove Cement Dam sending a surge of water into Prickly Pear Creek. Local agencies, volunteers and homeowners worked together Tuesday to protect property and public safety.
Tuesday morning Frederick Maw IV got a phone call from his wife that the irrigation trench in front of their home on Shar Court was flooding.
"It was about a foot from the top when she called me at work and I said okay keep me informed. Five minutes later she calls me and says it's going over,” says Maw. Maw rushed home and saw water spilling into his property and his neighbors’. "Just kind of scary when you see that much water coming through and we've never experienced something like this."
One of the issues was debris clogging the works, not allowing the heavy amount of water to run its usual course. "Believe it or not there's probably an 80 foot by at least 10-12 foot deep culvert here directly behind me and that filled up, and by time I got here from work it was just going on the road," says Maw. The trench is connected to Prickly Pear Creek. Water overflowed the banks of the creek turning lawns and parks in East Helena into ponds.
"This is pretty unusual, as far as this time of year. We haven't had a big flood event like this in a long time,” says Chuck Bullman, an East Helena resident.
Agency’s from all over were called on to help, including the sheriff’s office, Lewis and Clark County Public Works and the East Helena Police. County commissioners issued a flood emergency. This allowed the county to hand out free sandbags at several sites throughout the valley. Six homeowners on Shar Court, including Frederick Maw, were asked to evacuate although they didn’t.
"Evacuations aren't mandatory unless people are unable to care for themselves. Evacuation order simply means that it would be in your best interest to evacuate,” says Paul Spengler of DES.
As part of the volunteer fire department, Maw says he felt comfortable staying. He says he’s grateful for the volunteers helping him and his wife; "You know it can happen and you just pray that it doesn't and when it does, you know I've got a great group of guys that are ready to drop everything for me."
East Helena and the Wiley Drive area were hit hard, but flooding wasn’t limited to those areas. Rainfall through Monday night and Tuesday also flooded Ten Mile Creek and agencies are responding all over the outskirts of Helena.
Story by Ryan Whalen, Beartooth NBC.
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