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Hell and high water: Historic flooding ravages swaths of Montana

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In the last few days, rivers in south-central and southwest Montana have risen to unprecedented levels, wreaking havoc on the communities along their banks. Images and videos of houses and bridges being washed away in rising floodwaters have populated social media sites. Whole communities in the area are isolated without any road access to them. Law enforcement and government agencies are still conducting search and rescue operations in the region. 

Runoff from the Beartooth mountains turned Rock Creek into a raging torrent almost overnight Monday.

Flood damage at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone national park caused road washouts, bridge failures, rockslides and mudslides.

The Yellowstone River crested at just over 49,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Corwin Springs in the upper Paradise Valley on Monday, shattering its previous records of 32,200 set in June 1996. Wiping out all roads to Gardiner leaving huge crowds of travelers and residents trapped in the mountain town.

Downstream, floodwaters reached Livingston where the hospital was evacuated and Billings, forcing the city to shut down its water treatment plant.

While many questions remain, on this episode Brett French, outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette discusses what we do know about Montana’s current high water crisis.

This podcast  is created in partnership across five newsrooms – the Billings Gazette, the Helena Independent Record, the Missoulian, the Montana Standard and the Ravalli-Republic. You can support this podcast and our efforts by subscribing. Visit any of these newspapers’ websites, and click on the Become a Member button at the top of the home page. We appreciate your support of local journalism.

Thom Bridge can be reached at thom.bridge@helenair.com

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