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Cleanup work progresses near Red Lodge following 2022 historic flooding

By Dianne Parker,


Some 43,000 plus cubic yards of debris has been pulled from Rock Creek near Red Lodge since crews began work on April 17. Now workers with two traveling debris removal companies are moving on to Park County, where a total of 100,000 cubic yards of debris is expected to be removed.

It is an epic cleanup project following Montana’s 500-year floods of 2022 that ripped homes from riverbanks, tore apart roads and bridges, and downed thousands of trees.

A vegetative debris pile sits between Red Lodge and Roberts on the side of the highway, constantly growing and shrinking as debris is burned in a clean burning incinerator to save room in the landfill. Homes, household items, roadway material, and anything deemed not appropriate for incineration, along with the ash, is destined for the Billings Regional Landfill.

“I'd gone to Billings for a dental appointment in the morning and when I came back, we didn’t have any trees,” said Brooke Flynn, a Red Lodge flood victim.

One year later, many folks who lost their water-front trees or worse, entire homes, are still in the thick of it, rebuilding and reinforcing river banks, right in the middle of spring run-off.

“Right now we’ve hired someone to make a sloped bank that protects our property,” said Flynn.

The official Army Corps of Engineers permit says Flynn's property lost more than 200 cubic yards, or about 10 horizontal feet, of her lawn as Rock Creek undercut the bank.

"We actually had a small building that got jammed out in the middle of the creek and funneled the current into our bank,” said Flynn while pointing off her deck overlooking Rock Creek. “I don't think we would have had that much of a problem if someone’s shed hadn’t floated down the creek and got stuck out there. I've never seen anything like that.”

The aftermath is devastating but not debilitating with multiple government agencies coming together for what so far is a $3 million clean-up project, charged by the cubic yard and tackled by two traveling contractors that specialize in disaster recovery across the U.S.

“We’re finding a lot of significant debris piles from all the trees that have piled up, houses that were washed down river, bridges, household items,” said Jake Ganieany, Montana DES Bureau Chief Recovery and Mitigation Response.

“They have an excavator which has come up and down the creek and loosened debris out. I’ve seen it half a dozen times at least,” said Flynn.

The massive Montana cleanup project is expected to be finished by fall, but even so the fallout from a 500-year flood has much longer-lasting impacts, bringing out the best in humanity.

“I think really how the town helped each other,” said Flynn. “There still are churches helping people pay their rent, you know if they’ve been displaced. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing we hope, but we know the community can pull together.”

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