BILLINGS – Muddy conditions frustrated attempts Monday to complete road repairs in central Montana that would give about 300 stranded residents a way out of their rural neighborhood.
As more roads deteriorated following yet another round of rain in the area Sunday night, an emergency official warned that hundreds more Musselshell County residents could soon find themselves with no way to get out.
The main route into a cutoff area south of Roundup has been impassable since the Musselshell River last week washed out a section of Number 4 Road. Crews have been working to re-establish an alternate route along Fattig Creek Road, but officials said progress has been slow.
“As the roads get driven on, they are deteriorating faster,” Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Jeff Gates said Monday. “We’re getting issues coming up all over the county and we may have to start shuttling food and supplies to another three or four areas.”
In Wyoming, Albany County reported the state’s first drowning to occur during this spring’s flooding. Authorities say a child drowned in the swollen Little Laramie River, and they are investigating another possible drowning in a separate incident. No further details were available.
Central Montana’s Musselshell River is forecast to stay above flood stage until possibly Thursday following more than two weeks of flooding in Roundup and surrounding communities.
Supplies were being ferried to residents of the cutoff area by boat. It was uncertain when the main route would be restored and Gates declined to offer any timetable. He said similar problems were emerging in several other rural subdivisions where roads have become thoroughly saturated after weeks of heavy rain.
“Not only do we have the river flooding but I’ve got stuff going on 10 miles from the river,” Gates said. “We’re having to build roads to fix roads, to get into spots that are in trouble, so it’s not a fast process.”
Most of the water that inundated parts of downtown Roundup has been pumped out, but some water still is getting into town through gaps in a makeshift dike that lines the river, said Volunteer firefighter Cassie Degner.
In northeast Montana, flooding continued along the Milk River near Glasgow and the Missouri River below Fort Peck.
Water releases from Fort Peck Dam into the Missouri were increased over the weekend by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to 65,000 cubic feet per second. Downstream communities have been bracing for flooding from the unprecedented releases, but so far no major problems have resulted.
The corps planned a slight decrease in its releases from Fort Peck early next week, to 60,000 cubic feet per second. But significant releases are projected to continue through most of the summer, said Fort Peck Dam project manager John Daggett.
A National Weather Service forecast showed the Missouri dropping slowly over the next several days.
The Red Cross said it had delivered 150 cots to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and identified potential shelter locations in preparation for potential flooding.
Less water in the Milk River — which feeds into the Missouri — appeared to be easing the risk that houses would flood, said Darla Shumway, a spokeswoman for Roosevelt County. Shumway added the situation could quickly deteriorate if more rain hits the area or the corps decides to further increase its releases from Fort Peck.
“We are not letting our guard down until we are sure the corps is not going to jump it up to 70,000 or 75,000 (cubic feet per second) or Glasgow’s not going to get another flash flood,” Shumway said.
In Western Montana, a flood warning was extended until further notice for the Cark Fork River at Drummond, which was expected to remain above flood stage until midday Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
Flood warnings also were in effect for urban areas and small streams in Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Hill and Broadwater counties.
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