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Guest opinion: ‘Montana Heroes’ respond t o flooding


Billings Gazette

Guest opinion: ‘Montana Heroes’ respond to flooding


U.S. Senator‌

| Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2011 12:05 am

Our great state has faced severe and unrelenting flooding for the past several weeks. As water levels rise, Montanans across the state are stepping up to help. This is the essence of what it means to be a Montanan — ordinary folks doing extraordinary things for their friends and neighbors. We are all in this together.

That’s why I have been calling attention to the “Montana Heroes” going above and beyond the call of duty in the flood response. The inspiring stories of neighbors helping neighbors remind us all that we are at our best as Montanans when we are working together. Please join me in recognizing the following people chosen over the last few weeks as our “Montana Heroes of the Day.”

In Roundup Pastor Cathy Moorehead, United Methodist Church, and Father Daniel Wathan, Saint Benedict’s Church, went to work as soon as the floods hit in May, coordinating closely with the Roundup Ministerial Association to help with flood recovery and relief efforts in Musselshell County. They opened up a space at St. Benedict’s church to serve meals, receive food, clothing and other emergency supplies for victims and provided four home-cooked meals a day to victims and volunteers.

At Crow Agency April Toineeta worked with the Red Cross to set up shelter for flood victims and made sure the Indian Health Service had the latest information about where medical care was most urgently needed. April has been working 18-hour days catching an hour or two of sleep on the floor of the Crow Housing Authority.

When Box Elder Creek burst its banks, floodwaters destroyed the Harris family home in Mill Iron — just outside of Ekalaka. Neighbors Charlie and Gail Brence hopped on four-wheelers and went to rescue the Harris family of seven. When they arrived, the Harris home was under 6 feet of water. They offered the Harris family a place to stay as they try to rebuild.

In Box Elder Bruce Sunchild, interim chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, has coordinated disaster response efforts at every level from housing to public infrastructure to making sure tribal members with specific health needs were able to be evacuated first. He’s also spearheading the ongoing disinfection of wells contaminated by floodwaters.

Dave Dickman of Dickman Excavation in Great Falls responded to the flooding disaster by donating thousands of sandbags from his company to Montana families trying to protect their homes from floodwaters.

Golden Valley County Sheriff Floyd Fisher has knocked on doors to evacuate residents facing flash flooding, directed traffic, responded to medical calls and even helped sweep floodwaters out of the Super D grocery store in Ryegate.

Curt Belts, retired Missoula rural fire chief, has been working 14-hour days dispatching hundreds of volunteers and coordinating sandbagging efforts throughout the Missoula community.

Darin Falcon, director of the Fort Peck Tribes Indian Reservation Roads Department, has gone the extra mile working around the clock on the construction of berms and dikes to protect the community.

John Bebee of Lewistown has been out sandbagging around homes in Lewistown and pitching in to help residents most affected by the recent floods for the last three weeks.

I’m working hard to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to move quickly and do its part in Montana. I’m asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transportation for any possible emergency resources and looking under every rock to find our communities the support they need. As we look for any and every option to help folks hurt by the flooding disaster, I think it’s important to recognize all the people who aren’t waiting for help — but are working around the clock to help each other.