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The fast-flowing river now running through the center of the Helena Campground and RV Park on Montana Avenue does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

Sandbags are piled five deep to channel the floodwaters from Ten Mile Creek down the center of the park, cutting it in two.

On Monday afternoon, residents were working with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and other volunteers to keep the water contained. But it seemed that every time they closed a new breach, another leak would spring somewhere down the line.

Andrea Gustafson, who has lived in the neighborhood since before the last major flood event in June 2011, said "it was never this bad." She said her front yard was void of any water at 4:30 p.m. Sunday and covered by about 6 inches of brown soup by 1 p.m. Monday.

Residents of the neighborhood are under a boil order, as the water from their wells could be contaminated by the floodwaters. 

“There’s no running water. Everything is plastic, paper, bottled water. You go to a friend’s house to shower,” Gustafson said. “It seems like it’s coming up way too fast.”

Gustafson still had sandbags from the last flood surrounding the chain-link fence around her yard. Her dog is at a family member’s house, and she is receiving help from her three boys, one of whom left work early to help Gustafson protect her home.

Residents and volunteers fight to divert flood waters in the Helena Campground and RV Park Monday.

Residents and volunteers fight to divert floodwaters in the Helena Campground and RV Park Monday.

George Harris was mucking around in waist-high waders, covered in dust and dried mud as he helped fill sandbags and directed the flow of work around the channel-building operation. Harris said the LDS volunteer group out at the site had put up “thousands” of sandbags as part of the flood-control effort.

“There were several breaches this morning,” Harris said Monday, noting that it was a struggle to stay ahead of the rising waters.

“It’s a tough time as the weather warms,” Harris said. “We can barely shovel enough sandbags. ... Once the bags are in, the breach is in, and you have to start all over again.”

Michael Williams has lived in the park since 2010 and also experienced that 2011 flood.

“This is way worse,” Williams said. “We made this channel to keep the houses out of it.”

Maxx DaSilva floats on an inner tube down his street Monday in the Helena Campground and RV Park.

Maxx DaSilva floats down his street on an inner tube Monday in the Helena Campground and RV Park.

Williams hasn't seen flooding this bad since 1981, when four trailer homes either floated off their foundations or had their foundations completely compromised by water, knocking them onto their sides. He pointed to a huge area now covered in water, saying “this was completely dry Friday night.”

Roger Rusk said he was immensely grateful to the LDS volunteers who had been coming to help over the weekend, and his neighbors agreed.

Helena Campground and RV Park flooding

Residents and volunteers pass sandbags along as they work to divert floodwaters in the Helena Campground and RV Park on May 7.

Jason Littlefield was working with a Bobcat skid-steer to make dirt berms, which were covered with plastic to help keep the water out earlier in the weekend.

“We need straw bales if anyone has it,” to keep the sandbags in place, Littlefield said. “We could use water as well.”

Monica Racine wondered why the flooding wasn’t “big enough to be considered a disaster.”

“There are a lot of handicapped and elderly in the neighborhood,” Racine, who is in a wheelchair, said. “These are our homes, and it makes me sad.”

Floodwaters inundate the Helena Campground and RV Park Monday.

Floodwaters inundate the Helena Campground and RV Park Monday.

State Sen. Mary Caferro, whose district includes much of the flooded area, was also among the many volunteers on the scene. Caferro said she received a lot of help from complete strangers when her Helena Valley neighborhood flooded years ago, and she wanted to return the favor.

"I know how important it is that people are just helping each other," she said, adding that "it was like a guardian angel showed up."

Independent Record Editor Jesse Chaney contributed to this story. 



Reporter at the Helena Independent Record.

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