After declaring a flood emergency in late April, the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers have flooded and hundreds of thousands of county dollars have been expended, so Missoula County Commissioners officially declared a disaster on Thursday morning, making way for state aid.

Director of Missoula County’s Office of Emergency Services, Adriane Beck described the process at the Thursday media briefing.

“The difference between an emergency declaration and a disaster declaration can be summed up by scale and scope,” said Beck. “There’s a pre-established threshold of an emergency two-mill value for the county, and that is roughly $202,000. To date our estimated costs are now about $250,000 as far as the county resources and or city resources that have been expended at this point by way of personnel hours and or equipment.”

Beck said the disaster declaration allows the county to be at least be partially reimbursed for some of those costs.

“Declaring a disaster and meeting that financial threshold really does then allow us to transition,” she said. “While the county is still responsible for our response to flooding, it does allow us to ask for some additional assistance from the state, whether that be in financial assistance in the form of reimbursement sometime at a later date, or resources that the state may have to bring to bear.”

Beck emphasized once again the fact that the current flooding has come early in the traditional season, and there may be much more flooding as the spring continues.

“We’re still not in our normal flood season,” she said. “While this was incredibly early and a lot higher than we anticipated,  we just don’t know what’s yet to come, and so that is the message that we want to get out to the public. We’re asking for their continued support and understanding as we’re dealing with what we’re dealing with, but also for their continued vigilance to pay attention to changing conditions and to register for emergency alerts so that we can notify them when and if those conditions change.”

Flood waters have receded somewhat, however it may be some time before evacuees can return home safely.