Aretha Brown was worried about her 6-month-old son, Lawrence Bull Shows. He was sick with pneumonia and Brown had taken him to the Indian Health Service for treatment.

That was last Saturday. Brown was supposed to return Sunday for a follow-up visit, but by then, floodwaters had surrounded her house at Crow Agency.

Brown gathered up her baby and two other sons, Noah, 5, who had an ear infection, and Michael, 4, and fled the rising water. She and other evacuees spent Sunday night at the new, unused jail in Hardin.

"It was cold that night," she said. "There was no heat in it."

Since Monday, Brown and her boys have been at the shelter set up for flood evacuees by the American Red Cross of Montana at Petro Hall on the campus of Montana State University Billings.

By the time she got to the shelter, Brown was down to two diapers for her baby and had only the clothes she and her boys were wearing. The Red Cross provided the family with clothes, blankets, a humidifier and other necessities.

"We were really grateful for that," Brown said.

Brown also took her son to St. Vincent Healthcare for treatment.

"He's getting better, now that we're in a warm place," she said Thursday, cuddling a grinning Lawrence on her knee. "He's been very happy." 

Brown was waiting to take Lawrence to see IHS staff, who were at the shelter for a few hours Thursday to check on people needing medical assistance.

Brown and her children are among 391 people, almost all from the Crow Reservation, who have been staying at the dormitory shelter since record rains caused extensive flooding on the reservation and throughout the region.

Many of the shelter's guests have relatives there, too. Brown estimated that 30 other family members are at Petro Hall, including her sister, two cousins and all of their children.

"I'm just glad they're all here and they're all safe," Brown said.

Brown doesn't know when she will be able to return home or what she'll find when she gets there.

"I don't know if the water got into the house," she said. "The boys want to go home, to their own rooms."

Lori Grannis, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said the Billings shelter took in 101 more people since Wednesday. More than 100 of the people at the shelter are children.

The Petro Hall shelter, which is housing displaced flood victims in dorm rooms, is reaching its capacity of about 400 persons.

The Red Cross confirmed Thursday that the MSU Billings shelter is the organization's largest currently in operation in the United States.

Also, MSU Billings officials have said the shelter will have to move by June 4, which is the last day the university can offer help before its summer schedule begins.

Red Cross officials and Duane Winslow, Yellowstone County's disaster and emergency services director, said they were looking for another shelter location and were hoping to move by June 1. A new location has not been determined.

The American Red Cross got a big boost Thursday in its efforts to help Montana flood victims. First Interstate BancSystem and the First Interstate Bank Foundation each donated $25,000 to the organization.

"We wanted to support our neighbors during their time of great need," said Lyle Knight, president and CEO of First Interstate Bank.

First Interstate also is double-matching its employees' contributions to the American Red Cross for flood relief. Others may donate to an account established at the bank specifically for flood relief donations. Contributions may be made at any First Interstate location or may be sent to American Red Cross Montana, 1300 28th St. S., third floor, Great Falls MT 59405; with the designation Flood Relief Fund. 

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

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