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Laurel bracing for flooding at Riverside Park as Yellowstone River rises

Posted at 8:35 AM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 10:35:04-04

LAUREL — The rising Yellowstone River is threatening Billings and Laurel, even if the damage seen in other parts of south-central Montana hasn't come to these cities.

The Riverside Park campground in Laurel was evacuated Monday due to the ongoing threat of flooding from the rising Yellowstone River, caused by recent unpredictable weather in the area.

Rain mixed with warm weather has caused a surge of snow runoff.

"I have been out and around, and the soils are saturated. So if we get anymore precipitation, we could have some problems with flash flooding and runoff," said Kurt Markegard, the public works director for the city of Laurel.

The city of Laurel has made strides to improve the river system by armoring the riverbank at Riverside Park and the water treatment plant after the massive oil spill in 2011.

That summer, the Exxon Silvertip pipeline spill dumped between 750 to 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the river, causing massive damage to the surrounding area. The water levels are approaching a similar height that they were in 2011.

"The best thing I can say is property is not worth losing your life over. Get to higher ground and stay safe," said Markegard.