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Carbon County lays out first steps of recovery efforts following historic flooding

carbon county flooding update.jpg
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
Carbon County incident commander Tom Kuntz gives an update Tuesday to Montana Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras and members of the Montana National Guard.

Carbon County emergency personnel on Tuesday briefed Montana’s lieutenant governor and members of the Montana National Guard on flooding in south-central Montana.

Incident commander Tom Kuntz told Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras that a combination of rain and snowmelt eroded the banks of Rock Creek by Red Lodge, totaling homes, washing out bridges and breaking water lines.

"What we’re trying to focus on currently, right now, is travel routes at bridges and access. That’s our number one concern," Kuntz said. "Our number two an equally up there is water and sewer.”

A large chunk of Red Lodge remains cut off from water or under a boil order. Free water bottles are available along Red Lodge’s downtown.

Kuntz said river levels continue to rise in Bridger and Fromberg. He added that snow melt remaining on the mountains combined with warm weather and more rain could lead to another flooding event. He said both conditions are forecasted for Saturday, but possibly to a lesser degree.

At Rosebud Lake west of Red Lodge, the Montana National Guard flew 85 people out by helicopter as historic flooding continued to impact the recreational area.

Katie Wise, a musician visiting from Colorado, was among the of dozens of people the National Guard brought to the Red Cross evacuation site at the Red Lodge Fair Grounds. She says she’s still feeling shaky following the evacuation.

"I’m pretty adrenalized right now. My heart is pounding," she said. "The most stressful part was that we didn’t know the helicopters were coming, so we were just talking about how we were going to do the whole water and rationing food, and we were going to do a food inventory and gather back as a community.

"And then it was like, you have 10 minutes, pack your bags, we’re getting on a military helicopter.”

The National Guard on Monday evacuated 12 people total from Roscoe and Fromberg in Carbon County and Cooke City in Park County.

The Guard is establishing a command center in Red Lodge to help coordinate further search and rescues in the area.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.