BROWNING – Residents of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation were digging out Wednesday from at least 3 feet of snow while bracing for high winds expected to send the snow drifting.
Meanwhile, freight trains have resumed travel through the Glacier National Park area after BNSF Railway completed avalanche mitigation work. Amtrak Empire Builder trains were scheduled to leave Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Chicago on time Wednesday and move through Montana on Thursday.
A day after the Blackfeet Tribe declared a state of emergency, tribal officials met in Browning on Tuesday with the talk turning to concerns about winds of up to 50 mph forecast to begin early Thursday.
"People are encouraged to prepare and take proper precautions including stocking up on food and water, medication, remaining indoors and off of the roads/highways during this time," the tribe said in a statement Wednesday.
Officials were concerned that residents who dug out from the snow would go into town for supplies and get stranded there by white-out conditions. The tribe identified a building where people could stay if they got stranded in town.
Tribal offices received more than 300 calls for assistance on Tuesday. Most were for snowplows but 50 were for medical assistance, Robert DesRosier told the Great Falls Tribune.
Blackfoot Community Hospital CEO Dee Hutchison said the snow prevented some nurses from getting to work Tuesday while Darlene Wippert said she had to dig tunnels behind her house so her Chihuahua and Boston terrier could go outside.
Department of Transportation snow plow driver Cody White was stopped along U.S. Highway 2 Tuesday because the heavy snow had plugged up the blower on his plow. He said plow drivers were pushing the snow as far back from the roads as possible in anticipation of high winds that would create more snow drifts.
Ranchers along the Rocky Mountain Front struggled to reach their cattle to feed them.
Ross Williams, whose cattle are grazing about six miles east of St. Mary, said it took him all day to feed them because the snow was more than 4 feet deep.
"You can just barely get around with chains on your tractor. If you get off the track you won't go," he told the Tribune. "I had to make a track first before I could even go out there. Then I could maybe haul one bale at a time."