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Billings canal overflows, some residents asked to evacuate

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Posted at 11:30 AM, Jun 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-06 14:21:51-04

BILLINGS — On Sunday morning, Billings city officials are asking residents who live north of 8th Avenue between the streets of North 22nd Street and North 19th Street to evacuate to Cedar Hall on the MetraPark campus due the potential threat of overflow from the Billings canal.

Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley held a press conference outside Billings Fire Station One at 10:15 a.m. He said water was found to have overflowed the Billings canal near 2000 block of Burnstead Drive. No injuries have been reported as a result of the flooding. Wooley did mention some property that was damaged in the area, but the extent of the damage was unknown.

"The fire department is going door to door in that area asking people to leave for the time being until we can make a final determination on the stability of the ditch wall. That's currently what's going on with assessments of monitoring ditch wall integrity. The streets department is sending out equipment right now to remove some mud and some debris that overflowed through the waterways there," Wooley said.

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Billings Police Lt. Brandon Wooley updates the media about the Billings canal overflow situation and evacuation in front of Fire Station One Sunday.

Water flow to the canal was turned off at 7:15 a.m. Sunday morning, but the water level in the canal will take eight to 12 hours to subside, Wooley said.

Wooley said the evacuation was not mandatory, but due to the ongoing threat of flooding or canal collapse people living in the area mentioned above were asked to evacuate. People should be ready to be away from their homes for up to 24 hours, Wooley said.

The Cedar Hall shelter will be staffed by Yellowstone County Disaster and Emergency Services and the Red Cross.

Officials aren't sure what caused the canal to initially overflow and are waiting until the water level in the canal lowers to find the issue. Wooley said the problem could be an obstruction or a breach in the canal.

In the evacuation area on the Billings North side, firefighters were going door to door asking people to leave.

Wooley asked the public to stay away from the area while members of the city streets division and Billings Bench Water Association work on the canal.

City officials said to expect more information from a press conference later this afternoon.

Earlier in the week, Billings Bench Water Association staff had the canal turned off and were working to lay a new liner in the canal bottom after it was found to be leaking near the area of North 14th Street and North 15th Street. In 2019, homeowners near the canal had their foundations shift after the canal wall shifted toward their homes.

RELATED: Our home is 'crying': Canal seepage creating nightmare for Billings homeowners