With more than 40 residential water lines frozen, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County’s worries are not over — and now the Smelter City is bracing itself for possible flooding starting this weekend.
Warmer spring days coupled with frigid nights have found a way to torment the Smelter City a second time in recent weeks. Over 40 residents have frozen water lines below ground between homes and the street.
Bill Everett, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County chief executive, said no one he’s talked to can remember that many water lines freezing up within such a short span before. He said the county is doing what it can to provide temporary water services to the affected residents.
“In most cases, we’re able to provide temporary water,” Everett said.
Anaconda got pummeled with approximately 3 feet of snow last month within the span of a few short days and declared a state of emergency. Gov. Steve Bullock signed an order the next day allowing the county to get resources from the state to get certain streets plowed and snow removed.
But the county is not out of the snowy woods yet.
With warming temperatures, Everett says the Smelter City is doing what it can to prepare for potential flooding. County officials are expecting the snow to start melting. The question is how soon and how fast.
The weather this weekend has county officials worried.
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Everett said Anaconda Job Corps volunteers, a group of 16-to-24-year-olds, will be out on Friday building sandbags for residents. The county plans to have 10,000 sandbags available for free for residents to pick up at the county courthouse, 800 Main St., or at the Anaconda Fire Department, 300 Main St.
Everett said he hopes residents only take what they need so there will be enough to go around.
The county will also be placing sandbags around municipal structures, such as the wastewater treatment plant and the airport.
Delila Bruno, state Disaster and Emergency Services administrator, said the state has asked the Army Corps of Engineers to provide technical assistance to the county. Bruno said the engineers are expected to arrive no later than Monday and are coming from Spokane.
Ryan Leach, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Missoula, says Mother Nature could help out as well. Despite the fact that temperatures are going to reach into the low-to-mid 40s over the weekend and into the upper 40s by Wednesday, the lows are expected to drop at night into the lower 20s, even back down into the teens.
“If we’re spending most of the night below freezing and freezing up hard, it really slows things down,” Leach said. “Once the sun shuts off, it lets the system drain out.”
But, Everett says, that is the source of the water lines freezing.
He says warming during the day coupled with freezing temperatures at night drives the frost deeper into the ground. The county believes that is why the water lines are freezing up.