Flooding swells Montana rivers, washes out roads

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 11, 2014 at 2:21 am •  Published: March 11, 2014
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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A new storm brought more snow to areas of Montana where hundreds of people have been left cut off by swollen rivers and impassable waterlogged roads.

Authorities warned that the new precipitation Monday night and Tuesday could make the flooding worse.

The snow was expected to move Tuesday into neighboring Wyoming where members of the National Guard were helping to protect two towns threatened by high water.

The National Weather Service said 1 to 6 inches of snow could fall in the flooded areas of Montana and Wyoming before Tuesday night.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a flood emergency late Monday after forecasters put 30 of the state's 56 counties under some type of high water warning.

Musselshell County in central Montana appeared to be hardest hit: Dirt roads in rural areas turned to mud, some bridges were blocked by high water and the Musselshell River threatened to overcome protective dikes in Roundup.

Warm weather over the past week unleashed massive amounts of water from record snowfalls that have blanketed the region. That pushed many streams and rivers over their banks, authorities said.

Impassable roads cut off about 350 people south and east of Roundup, Musselshell County disaster coordinator Jeff Gates said.

Officials advised residents to stay in place if possible, and were crafting plans to ensure sufficient food and medical supplies were available to any stranded residents.

Hundreds more in the Dean Creek subdivision southwest of Roundup also were cut off for a time until the situation improved Monday evening. But officials advised residents to remain ready to leave if necessary.

Temperatures were forecast to drop below freezing overnight as the rain turns to snow.

"If it freezes and we get snow the roads will freeze and it will help us," Gates said.

In Wyoming, Guard members stacked up sand bags in Manderson and Greybull. The National Weather Service says sandbags were used to divert water around the Manderson school and water treatment plant. No evacuations were reported.

Seven homes were damaged in Greybull over the weekend but the extent of damage wasn't immediately clear, said Wyoming Office of Homeland Security spokeswoman Kelly Ruiz. Video posted by the homeland security office showed the river full of ice chunks on Sunday and a home protected by sand bags surrounded by water.

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