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Friday, June 3, 2011

Water Weather?

We are having what I call water weather here in Montana. What is that, you ask? It's a combination of rain, floods, snow-pack melting, snow falling (yes, I know it's June!) and all of the attendant problems.This year we are really having water weather. Our rivers are higher and more destructive than usual.

For example, the Judith River in southeastern Montana took out a railroad trestle - twisting the railroad rails like wet spaghetti noodles. The biggest problem this caused is sort of obvious - the train cannot run across this trestle any more. Here is the real deal. On one side of this trestle - the east side - is the huge coal mine known as Colstrip. On the other side - in Washington State to the far west - is a big customer - a coal-fired power plant complex. There are now empty coal trains sitting on every single siding between the Judith River and the power plant. I'll not get into a discussion about the wisdom (or not) of burning coal here, but suffice it to say that I don't think the power plant has a large enough stockpile to last until that trestle can be rebuilt. Especially since they have to wait until the water goes down before they can even start - and that is not looking like it will happen any time soon.

Another problem. There is so much water in all the rivers that the lakes behind all of our big dams are rising faster than the water can be released. Today - officials began the process of opening the biggest spillway in the Fort Peck dam on the Missouri River. It is expected to cause flooding in North Dakota and all points downstream once they do. Notifications have been going out for a week so people can get packed and move to higher ground. The dam must be opened - it cannot be allowed to be overtopped - that could result in the destruction of the dam itself and the resulting catastrophe would be far worse.

The Kerr Dam on the Flathead River is a major electricity production point. Not only are all the spillways open at their maximum - but the huge turbines are spinning freely - not generating. This is because the resistance for electricity generation causes the water to be backed up - so they are spinning to let more water through. So...no electricity - and the lake is still rising.

It has been cold and rainy and snowing in the mountains all week. Adding more water to the equation. However the forecast for this weekend is for hot, sunny summer sunshine. You would think we would be happy. Guess again.

The forecast 80-degree heat is expected to melt the huge amounts of snow still in the mountains and bring it all down our already flooding rivers and streams all at once.

And this cold, rainy-snowy followed by hot-sunny stuff is expected to continue for the entire month of June.

Methinks we all better have a canoe and a pair of chest-waders on hand.

But of course this has nothing to do with climate change. Nope. Just coincidence. It's just normal (except it's not).

And Eric Can't-or says we will not be eligible for any assistance unless he can find some cuts somewhere else - like subsidies for not burning coal.

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