Missoula's Tower Street is dry. The floodwaters that just over a month ago lapped over the pavement have receded. Police blockades are long gone, as is the current that ripped up the pavement along Kehrwald Drive. There's no more din of sump pumps. Neighbors no longer linger in food-stocked tents. The field that buzzed with volunteer sandbaggers is empty.
But here and there, piles of sandbags still litter lawns and fence lines. Driveways are rutted. Chunks of riprap concrete—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' emergency levee—remain in the trees past a sign that says "No Wake Zone." The cleanup isn't over.
Earlier this month, the Missoula County Public Works Department announced it would aid in the removal of sandbags from Tower Street. The county asked residents to take sandbags from their property to the former volunteer staging area, empty them and consolidate the bags for Allied Waste to pick up.
Public Works Director Greg Robertson says the county completed much of its work collecting sandbag material July 25 and aimed to do "one more scour" by the end of the week. They've put down new topsoil in the staging area field and reseeded it. Now the biggest task remaining is to remove the Army Corps' levee, a commitment that will take at least several days to fulfill, Robertson says. "The Corps of Engineers dropped about 450 cubic yards of that stuff. So you figure a dump truck is about eight yards—that's quite a bit of work that'll need to be done."
Federal and state agencies have also stepped in to assist victims of the flooding on the Clark Fork River. The Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Division briefed residents on options for future flood mitigation during a public meeting July 13, including FEMA grants that could allow residents to raise homes above flood level or relocate them entirely.
For the folks at the eye of the storm on Tower Street, where the problems of ripped up pavement, flotsam and water damage persist, the larger picture may offer little comfort. But as Robertson says, "Given the amount of water that we had and the time it was up, it's pretty amazing we didn't have more damage."