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'No stranger to natural disasters': Major flooding washes out Musselshell County roads, strands residents

East Parrot Creek Road partially washed out
Posted at 6:03 PM, Jun 02, 2023

MUSSELSHELL COUNTY — On Thursday evening, Musselshell County was hit with major flooding. Roads were washed out and residents were stranded—but this is nothing new for the area.

"Historically, we usually kind of get hit with these about every two to three years. We’ll have these large-scale flash flood events. The last major one we had was in 2017, 2018," said Justin Russell, the director of Musselshell County Disaster Emergency Services (DES), on Friday. "And then before that, we experienced major flooding in 2011. Two events in 2013 that stranded quite a few people, did quite a bit of damage to the county. So unfortunately, we’re kind of in that area where we’re no stranger to natural disasters."

E. Parrot Creek Rd. Damage
E. Parrot Creek Rd. Damage

Russell believes there are a few reasons Musselshell County seems to be impacted more frequently than other areas.

“We’re kind of in a little confluence where we have mountains to the north, we have the river valley to the west, and then a lot of warm weather that comes up out of Wyoming and kind of hits that divide area," Russell said. "So we’re just kind of in that little hotspot where the storm system, especially what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of years, they just seem to develop and then they hit us pretty hard."

Justin Russell
Justin Russell

Thursday evening's flooding damaged both private and county roads.

"Major county roads that are affected right now is Number 4 Road, West Parrot Creek Road, and East Parrot Creek Road. East Parrot Creek, West Parrot Creek is seeing pretty substantial damages, especially in the culvert areas," Russell said. “We’re getting reports of multiple private roads in the area that have completely washed out. Some of those being Kelley, Log Cabin, Bender, and there are several others. We have our rural addressing specialist, he’s out right now doing a tour of the area, doing damage assessments. So we’ll have a more detailed list later this afternoon."

Number 4 Rd. Damage
Number 4 Rd. Damage

Those washouts have left residents stranded.

"We’re going to guess probably about 50-80 people (are stranded). One of the areas that’s stranded, it’s a fairly large Amish community, and then several areas up in there," Russell said. "And then we know of at least ten people up in the Log Cabin and Kelley area and we’re working to get them out the best we can."

Road crews have been out on Friday working to get the roads reopened.

"Our county road crew is doing an amazing job trying to get that open so we can get people in and out of the area," Russell said. "Number 4 Road, they were able to save portions of it so it’s at one lane travel right now while they’re repairing it. But we can still at least get people in and out."

Road repairs in the works
Road repairs in the works

The road crew is optimistic about the repairs.

“We’ve just had a lot of rain the last few days and everything is saturated. We had some washouts last night that we’re getting repaired as quick as we can,” said Brady Smith, an equipment operator for the Musselshell County Road Department, on Friday. “It’s kind of typical for what we’re dealing with up here in Musselshell County. Just doing the best we can, trying to keep the traffic moving and emergency access to the citizens."

Brady Smith
Brady Smith

But the area isn't in the clear quite yet.

“We’re still in a flood warning for tonight, so we’re trying to get things safe and passable,” Smith said. “It's kind of an ongoing thing. We’re still in flood warning for tonight and so we’re trying to get things safe."

Just in case, Musselshell County commissioners are trying to be proactive.

"County commissioners just signed an emergency declaration for Musselshell County, so we do have a declared emergency for flash flood and flooding events in the county," Justin Russell said. "We’re hoping to get a state declaration which will open up some assistance so we can get people the help that they need."