Montana Tribe Declares Flooding Disaster

June 6, 2013

Parts of northern and central Montana have seen more rain in the past two weeks than in a normal year, leading the Chippewa Cree Tribe to declare a disaster on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation swamped by widespread flooding.

The tribal business committee made the declaration that will allow it to apply for state and federal assistance, spokesman Tony Woods said.

Six roads on the reservation have been closed, while 18 homes have flooded basements and 38 more sustained roof damage, he said.

Some families have been displaced by the flooding or cut off from their homes, while four or five families were stranded in their homes with no way to get out. People on all-terrain vehicles were bringing them water and supplies, Woods said.

It was not immediately clear how many people have been forced from their homes. The tribe has made a deal with a Havre hotel for reduced rates for displaced families, but the families must pay for the lodging themselves because the tribe lacks the money to pay for them, Woods said.

A shelter was being prepared on the reservation, he said. The tribe also was setting up potable water stations and conducting an initial assessment of the damage.

More than a foot of rain has fallen in the Bears Paw Mountains near the reservation south of Havre in the past two weeks. The city averages just 11.6 inches of rain a year.

Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said the park has received 13 1/2 inches of rain since May 16.

Joe Parenteau, Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator, told the Havre Daily News that Hill County commissioners also were considering an emergency declaration.

Northern Montana communities also declared flood disasters in 2010 and 2011. Spring flooding on the Rocky Boy’s reservation in 2010 caused at least $32 million in damage, flooded 250 homes and washed out roads and water lines.

Woods said this year’s flooding is not nearly as bad as that, but several roads that were repaired from the earlier flooding have again been damaged.

Two storms have stalled over eastern Montana over the past two weeks. The National Weather Service recorded 16.4 inches of precipitation in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown in May.

The five-week total rainfall for the mountains is at least 19.4 inches, which is nearly an inch and a half more than Lewistown sees in a typical year.

The weather service predicted drier conditions for the rest of the week, with the possibility of scattered showers toward the weekend.

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