A flash flood hit Lewis and Clark County on Sunday evening, pelting the ground with hail and sending a small river of rainwater rising to wheel wells and lapping at doors at businesses through Helena’s Last Chance Gulch.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the county until 9:15 pm Sunday.
“Up to 1 inch of rain has fallen,” the NWS stated. “Flash flooding is already occurring.”
Matt Ludwig, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said they were aware of a chance of severe thunderstorms, but thought it would hit south of Helena.
He said it appears to be a super cell thunderstorm that crossed the Continental Divide.
“This is a dangerous and life-threatening situation,” weather officials said.
Places that saw flash flooding included Helena, East Helena and Spring Meadow Lake State Park.
Postings on social media showed a small river flowing down Last Chance Gulch and floodwaters slapping up against the doors of businesses.
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Ludwig said there were also reports of flooding along Winnie Avenue.
Weather service officials warned the heavy rain will impact creeks, streams, urban areas and underpasses.
Helena Fire Chief Jon Campbell said he had heard through his team that the 911 center received so many calls that the volume, along with weather, had affected the system. He said there were dozen of calls of trees down and pending welfare and other calls. He said many people were able to resolve the issues themselves.
He said there was a report of people trapped on Mount Helena, but they were able to get off the mountain before rescuers arrived.
Campbell said there were also several reports of flooding among residents and businesses along the city’s downtown.
Ludwig said the storm has moved on to northern Meagher County.
Sheriff Leo Dutton said he had heard some reports of flooding in Helena, but none in the county outside of town.
The weather service urged people to be cautious while driving and encountering flooded roads.
“Turn around, don’t drown … Most flood deaths occur in vehicles,” they said.