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Photo by Janice Schoonover Photo by Janice Schoonover

A wet spring spells bad news for area roadways

After a month of record-setting moisture, northern Idaho and western Montana are moving into a super-saturated spring, as the La Nina weather pattern continues to provide a little more water than we might prefer. Roads have fallen apart around the area, and a train derailment near Colburn-Culver Road in Bonner County has been blamed on the collapse of the rail bed due to water-filled soils.

It’s said that April’s showers lead to May’s flowers and, true to the poem, there doesn’t appear to be any relief in sight when it comes to drier ground. According to the National Weather Service, the April forecast models indicate we’re in for “substantial precipitation.” And on top of rainy weather, there is still a substantial amount of moisture in the mountains that has yet to make its way down for the season. (In a flip-flop from winter, we can say be ready for “snow-melt on rain” events.) 

Snotel data, for example, shows 177 inches of snow still atop Bear Mountain, and Schweitzer Mountain’s Snotel site is boasting 199 inches right before we go to print. Over half the Snotel sites in the Panhandle region are either at or above last year’s water content percentages.

Bonner County has already declared a state of emergency due to flooding, opening up the provisioning of sand and sand bags to area residents. Sand bags are available from area fire district offices. Sand to fill them can be obtained at the Clark Fork transfer station and the Grouse Creek sand pit. Bob Howard, director of Emergency Management for Bonner County, encourages people to “be prepared” to deal with flooding issues. 

If you spot deterioration to roadways, please call the Bonner County Road and Bridge Department and let them know. There are a lot of miles of roads in Bonner County and, while crews are out every day, they can’t be everywhere, all the time. “Preparation should happen sooner rather than later,” Howard said, and additionally warned drivers to be alert in areas where mud slides and rock slides may occur. And of course, be especially vigilant at night, when visibility is limited. Be aware roads that seemed fine earlier in the day might have deteriorated substantially in the intervening hours, much like Gold Creek, shown above.

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Landon Otis

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Homepage, Headlines, spring, weather, rain, roads, snowpack, flooding

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