Major floods hit the county in June, 1975, May, 1981, February, 1996 and June, 2011 when Presidential Disaster Declarations were declared. The peak of the flood season is during May and June, which usually are the wettest months of the year, with June having the most rainfall. Rapid snow melt floods have occurred in February of 1985 and 1982 and March 2007.
The county has 30 floodplain maps for the Helena Valley along Spokane, Ten Mile, Prickly Pear and Silver Creeks, the Blackfoot River in Lincoln, Elk Creek in Augusta, Trout Creek near York and the Missouri River near Craig. These maps are available in the coordinator's office, the Lewis and Clark County Library and with the county permit coordinator. Floodplain mapping is driven by development,a history of flooding and cost, which means that much of the county is not mapped. Unmapped areas may be prone to flooding that occurs in established floodplains.
A floodplain ordinance regulates the identified floodplains. This allows residents to buy flood insurance through their local home owner's insurance agent. The county's floodplain management program has a Community Rating system rating of 8, which allows a ten per cent discount on flood insurance premiums. About 25% of flood losses occur for properties that are out of the floodplain, so flood insurance should be considered by the home owner near a floodplain.
Public disclosure of a property in the floodplain before a sale is required by law.
A permit is required before developing in the floodplain, which includes buildings, bridges, culverts, wells, fill or any alteration of the floodplain. Contact the floodplain or permits coordinator for a permit application at 447-8285 or 447-8392. For more information on floodplain management, go to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation web site.
FLOOD MITIGATION AND PREPAREDNESS TIPS
1. Buy flood insurance. It takes 30 days to become effective.
2. Maintain the natural drainage on your property by cleaning culverts and removing debris from ditches and low lying areas. Clean culverts under driveways, because they are on private property and cannot be cleaned by county crews.
3. Keep sandbags and sand on hand if you are in a flood prone area. Plywood and plastic sheeting also work to protect property from flooding.
4. FEMA Flood Fact Sheet (PDF)
DES Contact Information:
COORDINATOR: Paul N. Spengler
Law Enforcement Center Basement
221 Breckenridge Ave.
Helena, MT 59601
Hours of Operation M-F, 8-5