More snow expected, flooding issues continue

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal  High water levels continue on the Snake River north of Blackfoot. Idaho faces the possibility of more flooding this year due to the melting of high snowpack in the mountains. And more snow is in the forecast.

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal
High water levels continue on the Snake River north of Blackfoot. Idaho faces the possibility of more flooding this year due to the melting of high snowpack in the mountains. And more snow is in the forecast.

By Journal Staff and wire reports

Flood warnings remained in effect in Bear Lake and Bannock counties on Tuesday, and National Weather Service officials predict even more precipitation to fall in East Idaho into Wednesday.

The weather service issued a winter weather advisory that will remain in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday for the Upper Snake Highlands, South Central Highlands, Caribou Highlands and Idaho portion of the Wasatch Mountains.

Weather officials said a storm moving through the area could drop between 4 and 9 inches of snow in elevations above 6,000 feet, and between 1 and 3 inches in the mountain valleys.

Weather officials said the snow could make travel difficult, especially over mountain passes and in backcountry areas.

“Be prepared for snow covered roads and limited visibilities, and use caution while driving,” the advisory stated.

Officials encouraged people to make sure they’re prepared for cold temperatures and snow, and to take measures to protect their gardens.

Weather officials also issued high wind warnings for Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for Burley, Rupert, Heyburn, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, Pocatello, Craters of the Moon, the INL Complex, Malta, City of Rocks, Malad City, Oakley and Rockland.

Any additional snowfall this week will add to what’s already been an unusually wet year.

“Precipitation since the water year started on October 1, 2016, is above or well above average across the state,” according to a Natural Resources Conservation Service news release. “The lowest amount is in the Clearwater basin at 123% of average and the highest is in the Little Wood and Big Lost basins at 182% of average.”

NRCS officials say the highest snowpacks in the central mountains are two times the normal. And even the lower elevations in East Idaho still have a snowpack that’s 185 to 200 percent of median in the Willow, Blackfoot and Portneuf drainages.

They say that May 1 streamflow forecasts were extremely high.

“The challenge this year is not too little water — as all of Idaho’s 2,000-plus lakes and reservoirs will fill this year,” Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for NRCS Idaho, said in the news release. “Rather, the concern is limited storage space if inflows continue to exceed outflows and fill the little remaining storage space.”

A flood warning was in effect on Tuesday for Bear River at Border, affecting Bear Lake County.

Weather officials said that as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the river was at 8.6 feet — more than a foot above flood stage. Minor flooding was occurring.

In addition, a flood warning was still in effect for Portneuf River at Pocatello, affecting Bannock County.

They said minor flooding was already occurring and moderate flooding was forecast as the river was expected to rise to roughly 10.1 feet by Wednesday evening.

Officials do expect the waters to slowly recede after that.

Many other areas throughout the state have also been affected by significant snowfall and flooding this year.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said Saturday that 31 out of Idaho’s 44 counties were under a disaster declaration after experiencing extreme snowfalls during the winter and resultant flooding over the past few weeks.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little added that lawmakers approved $50 million in emergency funds to help repair infrastructure from the winter flooding. Communities can apply for some of that money.

As of last weekend, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office and the city of Hailey had several mandatory evacuation orders in place.

Brad Richy, deputy chief of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, said it will likely take a month for the worst of the flooding to abate.