Various Locations, MT Terrible Flooding, Jun 1964
MONTANA'S FLOODS WORST IN HISTORY.
Great Falls, Mont. (AP) - Floods described as the worst in memory swept out of Montana's northwestern mountains Monday, killing at least eight persons, sweeping away dams and bridges and leaving hundreds of residents isolated. Rain pelted the area for the fifth straight day.
Authorities said the death toll included five members of one Blackfeet Indian family.
A girl was reported drowned in Valier, on the Indian reservation, and two motorists were missing after their vehicles plunged into raging streams.
Col. Howard McKinney of the Montana National Guard said the floods were the greatest natural disaster the state has ever suffered.
Damage estimates ranged into the millions of dollars.
Rescue workers were blocked in many places by washed-out bridges and long stretches of inundated highways.
At least 20 bridges and four earthen dams were carried away by the pounding water.
Powered by near-record rains and late-melting mountain snow-packs, the floods hit by surprise.
Center of the flood area was northwest of Great Falls where the surging streams coursed through small communities and ranch homes.
Despite poor flying weather, one jet-powered Air Force helicopter penetrated the flood-stricken area.
With a sling and hoist, Air Force medics lifted seven persons from perches ranging from tree limbs to roof tops. An Air Force spokesman said one man was taken from a roof just as it started to go under water.
Destruction was heaviest in the small communities of Augusta, Choteau, Browning and Dupuyer.
Dams burst near Choteau, Browning, Dupuyer and East Glacier sending walls of water up to 30 feet high over the sparsely populated area.
Col. McKinney set up a rescue operations center in Helena, the state capital, after acting Gov. Dave Manning declared the floods a state emergency. Gov. Tim Babcock was in Cleveland at the National Governors Conference.
In hard hit Choteau, all 2,000 residents left their homes to seek shelter overnight in a church and country club on higher ground.
Nearly 1,000 persons were housed in emergency accommodations in Great Falls.
Typhoid vaccine was dispatched to a number of cities where community drinking water was polluted by floodwaters. The dams that broke at Choteau and East Glacier held city water supplies.
West of Dupuyer, the Swift Reservoir dam gave way, turning normally docile Birch Creek into a mile-wide river.
Jim Farrar of Shelby watched 15 horses hurled into a ravine by the torrent. Moments later it caught a herd of cattle and churned them under.
West of Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, a dam on Two Medicine Creek, burst and water cascaded over Indian dwellings. Five members of a family named GRANT were missing.
A policeman in Browning said witnesses saw the family swept away in a surge of water as they tried to clamber onto a pickup truck. The family included an elderly woman. The truck and bodies were not recovered.
The main floods were on the Sun River, rising in mountains west of Great Falls, and on the Marias River, with tributaries in Glacier National Park.
Both the Sun and Marias feed into the Missouri River. Upstream gates at Canyon Ferry Dam near Helena were closed to lower the pressure on the fast-rising Missouri.
The Sun, which joins the Missouri at Great Falls, was expected to reach a crest of 20 feet - more than eight feet above flood stage - late today at Great Falls.
This would cause lowland flooding surpassing a 1953 flood that caused millions of dollars damage.
Great Falls, with 70,000 residents, is Montana's largest city.
Sandusky Register Ohio 1964-06-09