The flooding, which saw water begin streaming over rural roadways
near the ranching community of Roundup during the weekend, came as
warmer-than-usual temperatures rapidly melted deep snows amid recent
storms that brought abundant rains, weather forecasters said.
Floods also threatened to inundate three towns in north-central
Wyoming where vast ice formations blocked the flow of the Bighorn
River and caused it to spill from its banks.
In Montana, a network of dirt roads linking rural Montana
neighborhoods and ranches outside of Roundup were submerged in water
or washed out by Monday, making them impassable, said Tara Gates,
volunteer with the Musselshell County Disaster and Emergency
Governor Steve Bullock declared a flood emergency, allowing him to
mobilize Montana National Guard troops and direct other resources to
affected communities, and local authorities scrambled to devise
plans to deliver food and supplies to an estimated 400 people who
were cut off by the flooding.
Some 30 houses in Roundup, a town of 2,000 residents about 50 miles
north of Billings, were evacuated and dozens of people were warned
to prepare for evacuating at a moment's notice as rapid melting of
mountain snows and ice jams force the swollen Musselshell River to
overflow its banks, Gates said.
"It just kind of happened overnight. At first we had water slowly
coming in and then everything that could break loose did," she said.
It is the second time in three years that Roundup has faced severe
flooding. Hundreds of residents were displaced and dozens of homes
in Roundup were destroyed in 2011 during historic flooding in the
Missouri River basin.
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Conditions could worsen in coming days as a pair of Pacific storm
fronts are expected to bring more rain and snow to central Montana
and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies, said Chauncy Schultz,
meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Billings.
Volunteers in Roundup used sandbags to combat rising waters, which
eroded portions of earthen flood-control dikes on some reaches of
the raging Musselshell, a tributary of the Missouri River.
Montana has 30 counties under a flood warning, watch or advisory,
according to the governor's office.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deployed teams of inspectors to
assess levees that protect the north-central Wyoming communities of
Worland, Manderson and Greybull from flooding by the Bighorn River,
the Corps said in a statement on Monday.
Flooding caused by ice jams has sent water into several
neighborhoods in Worland and pushed water and ice within 3 feet of
overtopping a federal levee in Greybull, Corps officials said.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho,
editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)
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