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'I was nervous': First storm of 2024 proves challenging for Montana drivers

Backed up slick roads
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jan 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-09 11:25:57-05

Snowfall and frigid temperatures finally hit much of Montana over the weekend, causing headaches for drivers around the state.

There were many troublesome stretches of road, but perhaps none more devastating than in Cardwell. The Cardwell Pass, located between Butte and Bozeman, was the scene of a large pileup, which killed at least one person, and forced Interstate 90 into a standstill for several hours.

Butte resident Megan Berkopec was among the many affected by the crash.

"I was very anxious," Berkopec said in an online interview Monday afternoon. "It was pretty scary. I was nervous."

Berkopec said she was making the short trip to Bozeman to visit Home Depot for a home project they are working on. Because Butte doesn't have their own Home Depot, the drive made sense to them.

"It's usually only an hour drive to Bozeman, and I drive there often," Berkopec said. "I think we got there around 3 or 4 this time and sort of regretted making the trip."

Their trip faced serious delays as Berkopec got a first-hand look at the damages from the slick roads.

"There were cars backed up for miles," Berkopec said. "Going over that pass, the roads were just icy and it was super windy. We saw quite a bit of crashes on the way there."

In other parts around the state, pictures of ice-packed roads near Columbus were posted to Facebook, as well as road closures near Billings where semi-trucks were jackknifed on the roads.

Columbus roads

These road conditions changed from dry to dangerous quickly, and while that might be standard for Montana, Forsyth resident Robert Tallent is trying to help drivers be more informed. Tallent is one of three administrators for a Facebook page called Eastern Montana Road Reports.

"Road conditions can change in five minutes," Tallent said. "It can just all of the sudden get cold, windy and icy."

The Facebook page allows for people to post updates on road conditions around the state. Tallent said it's a lot like the Montana Department of Transportation phone app, but he believes the Facebook page is typically updated quicker by drivers.

"That MDOT app is a great resource, but it's not updated as fast as these groups can be updated by people driving on the road," Tallent said.

Facebook Page

There are many other Facebook groups similar to Tallent's, all of which provide a modernized solution to a big Montana problem.

"We created (the page) and we started seeing the need right away," Tallent said. "People were getting real-time effects from the road and they were engaging in the posts."