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Gov. Gianforte visits flood-ravaged communities in southern Montana

Says state shifting to damage assessment
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Posted at 8:23 AM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 10:47:05-04

Montana is moving into a new phase of the flood disaster — assessing damage and looking for funding to rebuild.

That was the message from Gov. Greg Gianforte Tuesday as he toured towns in Carbon and Stillwater counties, meeting with people affected by the flood, and disaster and emergency services. 

In Columbus, officials gave preliminary estimates of the damage in Stillwater County saying 11 homes are lost and 80 more homes are damaged. That estimate doesn't include outbuildings. 

Gianforte says the state is looking for ways to provide funding, especially to rebuild roads and bridges. 

“We moved very quickly to get the FEMA emergency declaration. That’s going to take care of public infrastructure. We’re inventorying the damage now so we can hopefully apply to expand that to include some level of individual coverage but there’s also irrigation infrastructure, there’s other needs like short-term housing requirements, so we’re looking at all the programs, whether they’re in commerce, labor and industry, agriculture, to make sure we can fill the gaps and help people get back on their feet,” he said.

Gianforte made stops in Red Lodge, Columbus, Fromberg and Absarokee Tuesday, all of which saw damage from the flooding Stillwater River and its tributaries last week.

Fromberg Mayor Tim Nottingham recapped the governor's visit to residents at a community meeting Tuesday evening. Nottingham said the goal for the town now, is to begin an assessment of the damage.

"For me, the light at the end of the tunnel is that we have teams who are going to start coming and doing damage assessment," Nottingham said during the community meeting.

Representatives from the Carbon County Department of Disaster & Emergency Service and the State of Montana DES told residents that the plan now is to apply to additional FEMA funding that will help residents coup some costs for loss of property.

That application would be for people affected across the disaster zone, including Stillwater, Park and Carbon counties.

To build the case for additional funding, DES will conduct a survey of people affected by flooding, building a scope of damage to show FEMA. If FEMA grants the funding, DES would undertake a more in-depth survey of damage after.

During the town meeting, Fromberg residents raised doubts that the money would make it to them and would be diverted to other, larger towns, like Red Lodge, instead, but DES representatives assured them that the money is not discriminatory to town or property value, but is spread uniformly across disaster zones.

Initial surveying to build the case for FEMA will begin Thursday with the goal of getting the application into FEMA sometime early next week. In addition to FEMA, state, and other federal funds, the governor says there may be an opportunity to use federal ARPA funds to make repairs.

Gianforte and other officials urge residents affected by flood damage to itemize and document everything — including damaged and destroyed property and possessions as well as time, labor, equipment and services used during the cleanup. All volunteers should keep a record of their hours as well.

Anyone affected by flooding should visit–the state's hub of flood information. The site includes forms for those affected to fill out for flood damage.

Spring floods have created a statewide disaster for Montana as historic high waters and raging waves cut their way through the Treasure State.

MTN stations across the state are raising money to support our neighbors affected by this devastation. With the help of the Scripps Howard Foundation, you can make a contribution that will go to those in need.

The MTN Flood Relief Campaign is a Missoula and Western Montana KPAX initiative in collaboration with the Scripps Howard Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization.  Contributions to the MTN Flood Relief Campaign will be used to help local Montana communities and are tax deductible.