THREE FORKS - In southwest Montana, ice jams near the Madison and Jefferson Rivers are beginning to raise flood concerns.

Right now, the Jefferson River is in minor flood stages, with the Madison and Gallatin Rivers nearing flood levels, and local rivers seeing early signs of ice jams.

With flood watches in place, there’s several ways to be prepared should rivers rise near your home as a result of the obstructions.

Your first step should be checking for safety warnings and alerts from local law enforcement to see if you’re in a flood plain. If you are, start moving any valuable items out of any basements or crawl spaces.

If you’re concerned about river levels rising, set up sandbags around your property as a precaution.

But once the flooding hits, Christopher Yanker, General Manager for Buffalo Restoration in Bozeman, says water will seep into your crawl space first.

“We don’t want you actually going down into the crawl space, if it is actively flooding,” says Yanker who, among other certifications, is trained in water damage restoration. “The damage would be water getting down into crawl spaces… I have seen it wash off and hit foundations and move them. So, it’s a powerful force.”

Once you realize there’s water in your home, assess the situation from a safe distance. Yanker advises watching out for the water level in your basement to make sure it’s not getting deep enough to affect your water heater or furnace.

Officials warn residents to also watch out for secondary damage, which is caused by evaporation of floodwater in your home. Talk to a professional to learn the best way to dry out your home. Drying out your basement and crawl space incompletely or by using the wrong method can lead to mold.

“You don’t want excessive humidity getting into your home and causing further damage,” Yanker adds.

But most importantly, think about your own safety. Yanker says to think about yourself and your family first, and your home second.

“I know it can be a time when you’re panicking or really worried about saving your home,” he says, “but don’t get into a mentality where you put yourself at risk.”

You can sign up for alerts on local issues in Gallatin County - including floods - by subscribing to the Community Notification System.

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