The Montana Army National Guard evacuated nearly 140 students and staff from the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible south of Augusta Thursday, after they became trapped due to washed-out roads.

Recent rains across the Rocky Mountain Front caused flooding of the Dearborn River, washing out several area roads including the one to the Bible school located near the river and the Forest Service boundary. Officials were concerned that the 100 campers and 37 staff at the school were unable to leave. Parents were scheduled to pick up campers on Friday.

"Because of the kids being in there and as time wore on, food and water would be an issue, we decided for safety reasons we should get those kids out of there," Capt. Brent Colbert with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Contractors at a local ranch were also trapped in the area, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Montana National Guard said Gov. Steve Bullock approved the request from the Air Force Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida to use two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and crew to assist county search and rescue. The helicopters were on the ground by mid-morning and transported the evacuees to Great Falls.

Members of Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office flew in as well with ATVs to check the area.

Federal, state and county officials continued to deal with floods caused by several inches of rain in the last few days that swelled rivers and creeks, closed roads and washed out bridges.

A portion of U.S. Highway 200 remains closed due to a failed culvert on Rogers Pass. A portion of Highway 21 just east of Augusta also remains closed due to a washed-out bridge.

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest said closures of Benchmark and Beaver-Willows roads west of Augusta also remain in place. Sun Canyon Road is open and passable to Mortimer Campground.

Flooding on the Missouri River and tributaries near Great Falls led the state to announce the emergency closure of several fishing access sites.

FWP announced the closure of the following sites:

  • Willow Creek Reservoir, on the Rocky Mountain Front, west of Augusta
  • Big Bend, on the Missouri River, south of Great Falls
  • Cottonwood Grove, on the Missouri River, south of Great Falls
  • Ulm Bridge, on the Missouri River, south of Great Falls
  • Truly Bridge, on the Smith River near Ulm
  • Largent’s Bend, on the Sun River near Vaughn

The flooding in Lewis and Clark County, as well as parts of Cascade County and the city of Great Falls, prompted Gov. Steve Bullock to declare a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon. The declaration allows the state to mobilize the Montana National Guard and other resources to protect people and property.

On Thursday morning, the Lewis and Clark County Commission declared a county emergency. The declaration allows the county to free up money for the emergency and recoup some expenses from the state and federal governments.

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin


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