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Flood impacts to south-central MT remain

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As last week's flood waters slink back into their rivers, some roads and transport essentials have been left with damages — if not completely wiped out — while other less impacted areas are returning to normal.

Roads and bridges

For those traveling by car or truck, the impacts become visible fast.

In Carbon County, the Beartooth Highway or U.S. Highway 212 from the Wyoming border to Red Lodge remains closed. Montana Highway 78 from Red Lodge to Roscoe and S-419 between Junction and Nye are also closed, along with a number of side roads and bridges.

According to the Carbon Alert Incident map, the north and south East side road bridges are both out. The Meteetse Trail Bridge, Lower Wapiti Valley Road Bridge, the 9th street bridge, the 19th Street Bridge and the bridge crossing Highway 78 on Roscoe are completely out due to flood damage.

Private bridges on the Stillwater River

An aerial view shows private bridges to homes, subdivisions and ranches on the Stillwater River have been washed away by the recent flood.

The Silver Run Bridge, Bridge Road Bridge, Howell Gulch Road Bridge, Highway 308 Bridge, Two Mile Bridge, Fox East Bench Road, the northern and southern Tuttle Ln. bridges, the Edgar bridge and Ridgeway Road bridges and the bridge at Highway 78 and Lower Luther Road are all damaged but remain standing.

West Fork Road, Broadway Avenue, Park Avenue, North Cooper Avenue, East Rosebud, East Side Road, Sheep Creek Road, Snowcreek Road, Spring Creek Road, Hellroaring Road, the Lower Lake Fork Trail and Parkside Trail are all closed.

U.S. Highway 89 from Junction Interstate 90 East and US 191 North to 3 miles north of Junction Interstate 90 East and US 191 North remain closed.

A perilously teetering rail bridge close to Highway 89 has caused the closure near Livingston, Park County Public Works official Matt Whitman said. The rail bridge has been abandoned for years, and the choppy waters have eroded enough of the bank and structure that some witnesses fear it's close to collapse.

Whitman says that state engineers with the Montana Department of Transport will be able to look over the bridge once the waters recede. Until they're able to declare it steady, Highway 69 will remained closed. If the bridge collapses, its remains could destroy parts of Highway 89 down the river.

The Point of Rocks Bridge on Highway 89 is still closed, but repairs are projected to be finished by the end of the week.

“They’re still working on some paving and guardrail work sometime during midweek,” said Lori Ryan. “And they’re looking to have it re-opened by the weekend.”

In Rosebud County, the Big Porcupine Creek Bridge on Big Porcupine Road is closed and will be replaced.

The process of road recovery and bridge repair is one that requires precision, area road experts explained. Each layer of a road depends on the one beneath it, so any mistakes impact future ones.

Flooding aerial scenes on Thursday

An aerial view shows erosion of the BNSF rail line between Custer and Pompeys Pillar as the Yellowstone River floods on Thursday.

Railroads

Meanwhile, railways are trying to keep up post-floods.

Much of the rail systems in Montana stay clear of the flood zones, but one of Montana Rail Link’s routes follows the Yellowstone River.

MRL is a regional railroad that usually hauls products from businesses across Montana and Idaho. During the peak of the floods last week, MRL saw an eight hour delay of transportation, holding the commute for safety reasons, MRL’s media contact Andy Garland said.

By the time the waters receded, railway patrols had determined the water hadn’t damaged the tracks beyond some washed away dirt — something MRL railways could easily patch, Garland said. With that, the trains were launched once more and haven’t seen a significant delay since.

However, other railways haven't been as lucky. BNSF Railway, a nationwide railway company that crosses through Montana, saw several tracks shut down. Some were closed after high waters tore away at their foundations, making the earth too unsteady to hold trains. Repairs for some tracks have begun, but it is currently unknown when BNSF will be fully up and running again.

BNSF track repair

BNSF railroad adds rocks to shore up tracks between Pompeys Pillar and Custer on Monday. Several sections of track appeared to be under repair.

Fishtail moving forward

The small town of Fishtail has gotten lost a bit in the shuffle. It’s not a big tourist attraction like Gardiner or Red Lodge, and it doesn’t have the economic pull of the nearby Stillwater Mine.

Still, the town took a major hit when flooding closed S-419, also known as Nye Rd., cutting off Fishtail’s main artery MT-79, which connects to Absarokee and Red Lodge.

The only other way into Fishtail is by taking Grove Creek Rd. Stillwater County is asking for local traffic only on the small road, but that includes people wishing to shop or eat in Fishtail. There’s a pilot car to guide traffic, and the county is asking all travelers to use the stop signs posted throughout.

Instead of turning south at Absarokee and staying on MT-79, turn west onto Stillwater River Rd., continue for three miles and turn left onto Lower Grove Creek Rd.

The road should come in handy this weekend. On Saturday, June 25, The Fishtail Community Council is holding the annual Fishtail Family Fun Day, a carnival held in the Fishtail Family Park from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. The event will have food and beverage vendors, a parade, a cornhole tournament, live music and more. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

Red lodge boil lifted

Tuesday afternoon, recovering Red Lodge lifted its water boil order, meaning residents are safe to use running tap water.

The lift came from the Carbon County Department of Environmental Health, which also advised residents get rid of their old, possibly dirty water. People should run both hot and cold water for at least five minutes each to flush contaminants out. People should also flush out appliances connected to their water line, like refrigerators and dishwashers. Disposable filters that touched dirty water should be replaced, and ice from ice makers should be dumped and replaced three times.

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