Northern Rockies States Brace For Flooding

Jun 16, 2011
Originally published on June 17, 2011 10:58 am
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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Boise State Public Radio's Sadie Babits reports.

SADIE BABITS: Normally this time of year, you can mountain bike on Bogus Basin and not see any snow. The ski mountain just north of Idaho's capitol city of Boise stopped running chair lifts in early April. But there's still snow up here. It's a bit patchy where the sun hits the mountain the hardest. But hike through the mud to the backside of Bogus and it's still winter.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

RON ABRAMOVICH: Right over here from top of Chair Three, you could still ski all the way down to the bottom of Chair Three.

BABITS: There's a good three to four feet here, enough that Ron Abramovich slides down the slope in his hiking boots. His black lab, Buddy, watches.

ABRAMOVICH: This is very unusual this year having this much snow this late into mid-June already.

BABITS: Have you every seen this?

ABRAMOVICH: Not since 1982, '83 have we had this much snow this late in the season.

BABITS: Abramovich knows. He's a hydrologist and water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise.

ABRAMOVICH: So if you start comparing this to the rest of the state, and what we're seeing over in eastern Idaho and the Teton Mountains, the snowpack is even more solid.

DOUG FARRELL: It's a real disaster.

BABITS: Doug Farrell owns a remote ranch in northern Idaho near the St. Joe River. It's already flooded.

FARRELL: I've never seen anything this bad.

BABITS: If I were to walk on your ranch today, what would I see?

FARRELL: You'd see a lot of water.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FARRELL: You'd get your feet pretty wet and in places you're going to have to swim. That's how deep in a lot of places.

BABITS: The high water has wiped out miles of barbed wire fences. Farrell doesn't think he'll get a hay crop because he can't plant. So he'll likely sell off his cattle and horses. He can't afford the high hay prices. President Obama declared Farrell's county and four others disaster areas. Farrell's ranch isn't out of the woods yet.

GEORGE SKARI: If I can show you a map over here...

BABITS: That's George Skari. He's a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Boise. He swivels over to a monitor showing a map of the country.

SKARI: You can zoom in and you can look over the Montana area, where all this green is occurring there, that's really the area of impact right now for flooding, flood warnings; eastern Idaho, which would be the Pocatello office, Yellowstone area, Missoula, Montana, Billings and Great Falls.

BABITS: It's also a challenge for reservoir operators says hydrologist Ron Abramovich.

ABRAMOVICH: When do you release water, when do you save it? But when you see the weather patterns start changing is when you have to start releasing more water to make room for what's still to come. And unfortunately, it happens some people get flooded out, so it's a balancing act.

BABITS: For NPR News, I'm Sadie Babits in Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.