Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flooding hits Montana tribe hard

John Pape in Disaster News Network: A host of faith-based disaster relief organizations are providing assistance to Montana’s Crow Indian Nation after floodwaters from the Little Bighorn River and other streams swamped homes and other buildings in the tribe’s reservation south of Billings. Todd Chambers, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Billings, said the flooding was triggered by a combination of a heavier-than-normal spring snowmelt and torrential rainfall.

“With streams already full from the (snowmelt) runoff, and the ground saturated, the heavy rainfall sent streams and rivers quickly out of their banks,” Chambers said. “There was simply no where else for the water to go.”

Crow tribal officials quickly sent search teams into remote parts of the sprawling but sparsely-settled 3.2 million-acre reservation that is home to fewer than 7,000 tribal members. Crow leaders scrambled to account for those who stayed behind and delivered food to more than 100 people surrounded by floodwaters in the Pryor area.

“There are families and elders (that were) isolated and stranded in their homes," tribal spokesman Donald Spotted Tail said. “There was no way for them to access basic human needs such as food and water.”

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer mobilized more than 50 members of the National Guard to man checkpoints and assist with rescue operations in the Crow nation. Additionally, tribal leaders quickly moved emergency supplies to the community of Lodge Grass, which was also cut off by flooding and where residents had been running low on food, water and fuel. While some tribal members remained in their homes, others were evacuated to Red Cross shelters in Billings….

NASA topological image of the Little Bighorn River

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