Montana's Earth Science Picture of the Week

Floodwaters surround Glasgow in 1952

Photo by Paul Monson, courtesy of Cole’s Studio
with thanks to Samar Fay of the Glasgow Courier

This photo shows how levees protected Glasgow during a flood that occurred in April of 1952. The camera was pointed toward the southeast. Glasgow is located on the floodplain of the lower Milk River, about 15 miles northwest of where the Milk empties into the Missouri. Although flooding occurred as far west as Havre, less that a dozen people were injured and property damage was less than $7 million. As the photo shows, levees built around much of the town’s perimeter prevented it from being inundated. Levees are man-made embankments that protect towns or agricultural areas from flood damage.

March weather helps out in 2004 . . .
During the early spring of 2004 there were concerns that the Glasgow area would have a flood similar to the 1952 event because record amounts of snow (67.7 inches) at Glasgow exceeded those of the winter of 1951-1952 by over 7 inches. Fortunately, nearly perfect temperature conditions during March caused the snow to melt slowly, allowing the area to avoid a flood similar to the one experienced in 1952.

Montana’s flood of the century . . .
The worst flood disaster in Montana’s history happened in June of 1964 along both sides of the Continental Divide in the northwestern part of the state. As much as 14 inches of rain fell in 36 hours, adding runoff to streams that were already swollen because of snowmelt. The result was 30 deaths and $55 million in damage, including the failure of two irrigations dams. One of the dams, located near Dupuyer (75 miles northwest of Great Falls) washed away, causing a flash flood that took 19 lives.

Terms: floodplain, levee, runoff


*Milk River Valley once belonged to the Missouri
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By Rod Benson
Earth Science Teacher at Helena High School

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