Warm weather and rain continues to cause flooding across Idaho

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Juan Resendiz, whose home is east of Shelley, is using a pump and sprinkler pipe to drain water from around his house into a nearby field. | Doug Lindley, Idaho State Journal

POCATELLO — Massive flooding has sent most of the state of Idaho into high alert.

The bottom half of Idaho is riddled with flood warnings, watches and advisories. Precipitation mixed with temperatures in the 40s have combined to bring torrents of water in the form of rain and snowmelt cascading through much of west, southcentral and East Idaho.

Bingham County became the 13th Idaho county Friday to issue an emergency declaration. Other counties in the southern part of the state to issue declarations are Washington, Payette, Gem, Canyon, Ada, Owyhee, Gooding, Twin Falls, Custer, Minidoka and Cassia. Boundary County in northern Idaho has also issued an emergency declaration.

From flooded basements in Bingham County and mudslides in the Magic Valley to western Idaho homeowners being forced from their houses and ice-jam flooding in the panhandle, the statewide flooding is taking its toll.

“It’s really impacting the entire state,” said Mark Stephensen, area field officer for the southeast region of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. “The counties have been very vigilant monitoring the situation since before Christmas. Everybody’s doing their job.”

On Friday morning, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Portneuf River. Weather officials predict the river will reach a crest of 9.1 feet by early Saturday morning. Minor flooding of low-lying agricultural land and pasture is forecasted to occur in the Inkom and Blackrock area. Lowland flooding is likely along parts of the river between the Portneuf Gap and the Cheyenne Avenue Bridge near Indian Hills Elementary School.

In Bingham County, several areas between Shelley and Aberdeen were under water, according to Bingham County Sheriff Craig Roland.

“We’ve got major flooding everywhere right now,” he said. “We’ve got water over roads, water surrounding houses. … Just (snow) melt from fields close to residences right now.”

Roland said he didn’t expect the county to get a response regarding its emergency declaration until early next week.

The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is urging residents not to pump water from flooded areas onto county roadways. Authorities recommend individuals affected contact their respective city street department.

High water on the Portneuf River near the Great Western Malting plant in Pocatello on Friday morning. | Doug Lindley, Idaho State Journal

On the other side of the state in Washington County, the Idaho National Guard used a Blackhawk helicopter to rescue a 68-year-old man who was stranded in his home, which was inundated by flood waters, Friday afternoon. The victim was believed to be in poor health and was inside the flooded home when crews arrived. The man was flown to Weiser Airport, where paramedics were standing by to receive him.

Ice-jam flooding that was blocking a portion of the Weiser River cleared Friday, allowing flood waters to recede, according to the Associated Press. The flash flood caused by the ice jam damaged several homes and forced residents to flee to the tops of their cars and roofs to escape the icy water Friday morning. Emergency workers used a front-end loader to rescue four adults and five children near Weiser.

In the Magic Valley, a canal was partially breached overnight Thursday, flooding an area between Castleford and Buhl, according to the Associated Press. Districts in Filer, Buhl and Minidoka County closed schools in the middle of the day Thursday because of the flooding, and a car that got past a police barricade in Twin Falls County was swept away by rushing floodwaters. No injuries were reported.

A Red Cross shelter that opened Thursday at Amazing Grace Fellowship Church in Twin Falls has relocated to Eastside Southern Baptist Church at 204 Eastland Drive North in Twin Falls. The shelter will remain open over the weekend if needed, according to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross also warned the public about possible landslides.

“People should remain vigilant as conditions around Idaho change and new hazards crop up,” said Nicole Sirak Irwin, CEO of the American Red Cross of Idaho and Montana. “A major concern in addition to flooding is landslides, and the Red Cross has a terrific emergency app to help keep you safe.”

South of the Magic Valley in northern Nevada, U.S. Highway 93 remains closed from Wells, Nevada, all the way to the Idaho-Nevada border near Jackpot, Nevada. In Elko County, State Route 233 is closed indefinitely from Montello, Nevada, to the Utah-Nevada border after an earthen dam broke near there Wednesday.

In northern Idaho, weather officials reported an ice jam on the St. Joe River, causing flooding near Calder in Shoshone County.

In response to the flooding, Idaho Power issued a press release urging people to keep away from flooded or submerged electrical equipment, including green transformers.

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast entering the weekend should provide some flood relief. Though flood warnings, watches and advisories extend into next week, temperatures are predicted to fall into the 30s during the day and below freezing over night. Rain is also predicted to taper off over the weekend.

However, that isn’t expected to stop the flooding.

“The snow melt is not going to completely stop,” said Alex DeSmet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Pocatello. “Even though the rain stops and the snowmelt slows down, rivers and steams continue to rise for another day or so.”

Stephensen is advising people to do what they can to keep potential flood damage to a minimum. He said it’s a good idea to clear roofs of snow and to keep snow away from the sides of structures. Melting snow next to homes, Stephensen said, can cause water to leak into basements. He also encouraged people to keep storm drains and gutters clear of ice and debris.

“At the city, county and state level, we’re carefully monitoring the situation and are responding as needed,” Stephensen said.

This article was originally published by the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.

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