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Flooding swells Montana rivers, washes out roads

 By MATTHEW BROWN | Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Swollen rivers and impassable roads left hundreds of people cut off in rural areas of Montana on Monday, while in neighboring Wyoming members of the National Guard joined the fight to protect two towns threatened by high water.

Authorities warned the flooding could get worse with more rain and snow expected early today.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a flood emergency late Monday after forecasters put 30 of the state’s 56 counties under some type of high water warning.

Musselshell County in central Montana appeared to be hardest hit: Dirt roads in rural areas turned to mud, some bridges were blocked by high water and the Musselshell River threatened to overcome protective dikes in Roundup.

Warm weather over the past week unleashed massive amounts of water from record snowfalls that have blanketed the region. That pushed many streams and rivers over their banks, authorities said.

Impassable roads cut off about 350 people south and east of Roundup, Musselshell County disaster coordinator Jeff Gates said.

Officials advised residents to stay in place if possible, and were crafting plans to ensure sufficient food and medical supplies were available to any stranded residents.

Hundreds more in the Dean Creek subdivision southwest of Roundup also were cut off for a time until the situation improved Monday evening. But officials advised residents to remain ready to leave if necessary.

Temperatures were forecast to drop below freezing overnight as the rain turns to snow.

“If it freezes and we get snow the roads will freeze and it will help us,” Gates said.

In Wyoming, Guard members stacked up sand bags in Manderson and Greybull. The National Weather Service said sandbags were used to divert water around the Manderson school and water treatment plant. No evacuations were reported.

Seven homes were damaged in Greybull over the weekend but the extent of damage wasn’t immediately clear, said Wyoming Office of Homeland Security spokeswoman Kelly Ruiz.

Mountain snowpack across both states already is well above average, setting the stage for more high water when the spring runoff arrives. That’s expected in May or early June.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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