City Desk

 

Rock Creek shatters old record while communities report multiple bridges swept away

 Northeast Entrance Road washed out near Soda Butte Picnic Area (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park via Flickr).

 

Yellowstone National Park is temporarily closed, as are many of the communities nearby the park after weekend rain storms caused the area to flood, washing out many roads and bridges.

Park officials on Monday afternoon said the closure would last through at least Wednesday at a minimum.

The full damage of the rain is still being assessed by officials in the park and nearby. The Montana communities of Gardiner and Red Lodge are essentially closed off because of concerns about flooding, washed out roads and damaged bridges.

 High water area and some of the washed out road way along the Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park on June 13, 2022 (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park via Flickr).

 

“The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and State of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas. Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the park’s southern loop, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin to move visitors in the southern loop out of the park later today in coordination with our in-park business partners,” said Yellowstone Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we’re able to assess the damage throughout the park. It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time. I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and of our gateway community partners who are helping us through this major event. We appreciate the support offered by the Department of Interior, National Park Service and the Montana and Wyoming governors.”

All areas of the park are temporarily closed to inbound traffic, with no estimate of when it will reopen. Park officials there said that they’re still assessing “flooding, rockslides and mudslides” as well as looking at how to stabilize roads and bridges. They’ve also said that repairing the damage could take months and some areas may have to close for safety.

This closure includes visitors with lodging and camping reservations. And power is out to multiple locations in the park.

“With additional rainfall forecasted, the park does not want large numbers of day-use visitors stranded,” park officials said.

 

The Yellowstone River in multiple places in the park are already beyond record level.

 The United States Geological Survey Water Watch for the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, Montana. The previous record was set in 1918 at 11.5 feet, and at 10 a.m., Monday the river was at 13.62 feet (USGS via Twitter).

 

 

Red Lodge closures

 

Currently, residents in Red Lodge, in far south central Montana is also a community that sustained heavy damage as Rock Creek, a large creek that serves as the collector for much of the community’s snow and rain breached the banks and sent waters flooding into town.

The banks of Rock Creek breached north of Highway 308, by the popular “Red Box Car” restaurant, and flooded Broadway and 19th Streets.

Taking to Facebook at around 3:30 a.m. on Monday, Red Lodge Fire Chief Tom Kuntz warned residents to stay away and briefed the community about what was happening. The Carbon County Offices were closed, sandbagging efforts had begun, and even the city council meeting had been postponed.

 Red Lodge Fire Chief Tom Kuntz speaks on Facebook about flooding there at shortly past 3:30 a.m., June 13, 2022 (Carbon County Alert Facebook).

 

“We’re asking people to stay away. I know that people want to go and see, but it’s extremely dangerous. We watched a part of the sidewalk, just north of the Red Caboose just fall into Rock Creek. Luckily, no one was walking on it, but we will get out and look at stabilization efforts as soon as it’s safe,” Kuntz said.

Two bridges on East Side road were washed out, as well as bridges on Ninth Street and 19th Street. Parkside Road was also closed and the bridge along Highway 78 was washed out near Roscoe.

A broken city water main has also forced officials to issue a “boil” order, which means that residents should boil any water before drinking or cooking with it. Red Lodge had to turn off water for some time, too.

Mandatory evacuations took place of the east side of Broadway toward Rock Creek from 14th Street to 19th Street, and officials set up a temporary emergency shelter.

The National Weather Service warned that the wet, rainy weather, already coupled with snowpack that is well above 100 percent of normal have combined to make the flooding historic. According to the United States Geological Survey, Rock Creek was flowing at more than 2,000 cubic feet per second, almost doubling the previous record which had stood for more than 75 years of 1,230 cfs.

 A bridge washed out at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park on June 13, 2022 (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park via Flickr).

 

The National Weather Service said some of the flooding is also likely due to burned over areas from the forests that have recently burned. The scorched soil doesn’t hold the same amount of water and the barren landscape means that water usually flows over the top of the soil instead of soaking into it, resulting in flash flooding.

 

On the West

 

On the western side of the state, authorities were preparing for any flooding, but had only reported minor flooding on Monday morning.

The Missoulian reported some flooding along the Flathead River between Glacier National Park and Bigfork. It also reported some spillover at Lake Como and minor flooding on some other rivers in western Montana.

The National Weather Service is forecasting light rain through most of the state on Monday, with some severe rainstorms and thunderstorms on the far eastern portion of the state, near Broadus and Ekalaka.

The mid-June rain will give way to strong winds east of the Continental Divide on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing wind gusts of as much as 50 mph.

Click on the image above for the audio.

PNS - Tuesday, June 7, 2022A new report warns about technological tools used to surveil pregnant people, student loan debt can create crippling financial stress, and community collaborations are improving urban tree-canopy equity.

Jefferson County candidate Tim McKenrick allegedly told officials that he falsified his signature to “test” election integrity

Jefferson County Attorney’ Steve Haddon charged House District 75 candidate Tim McKenrick with deceptive election practices, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison and a $50,000 fine, according to legal documents first reported by the Boulder Monitor Friday. He’s slated to appear before the Fifth Judicial District Court on June 29.

McKenrick is running in the HD75 Republican primary against incumbent Clancy-area Rep. Marta Bertoglio. The election is next Tuesday. 

McKenrick could not be reached for comment in time for publication Friday afternoon.

The charges allege that McKenrick used an altered version of his signature on his absentee ballot return envelope in an all-mail high school board of trustees election on May 3. McKenrick allegedly did so, the Monitor reported, on the same day that he told voters at a Monitor-hosted candidate forum that they wouldn’t be able to read his ballot signature, that there are “too many people that can forge really well” and that he “struggles” with mail-in ballots because “they’re too hard to keep 100% track of to know that the person [who] filled it out, sent it in.”

According to court documents filed to explain the charges, McKenrick drew the attention of election workers when, while dropping off his ballot, he remarked about a signature line on ballot envelopes affirming that voters know that “attempting to vote more than once or signing someone else’s name to this affirmation is a violation of Montana election laws” and that doing so “may” invalidate a person’s ballot. 

McKenrick said he felt the affirmation should use “shall” rather than “may” — in other words, that anyone who attempts to vote more than once or forge a signature “shall” see their ballot invalidated, according to the charging documents. 

“They have a signature here, when a ballot comes in, they check signature to signature to verify it. You wouldn’t be able to read mine, and I don’t understand how — I mean, there are too many people who can forge really really well.”

TIM MCKENRICK, HOUSE DISTRICT 75 CANDIDATE, AS QUOTED IN CHARGING DOCUMENTS 

His comments led an elections worker, Jefferson High School business manager Lori Carey, to double check his signature. Carey said she felt the signature on his return envelope didn’t match the signature he had previously used, and confirmed her suspicion with someone serving as an election judge, according to court documents. She raised the issue with Jefferson County elections chief Ginger Kunz, who provided additional copies of McKenrick’s signature that allegedly also didn’t resemble the signature on the envelope. 

The next day, Carey mailed McKenrick a ballot signature verification form — used in instances of a discrepancy, among others. He went to Jefferson High School on May 5, and allegedly told Carey that he intentionally altered his signature both so that it appeared more like the signature he used when he was younger as well as to ensure that election workers were doing their due diligence, noting that he would rather his vote be void “than … miss an opportunity to ‘test the system,’” charging documents read. 

He would go on to make a similar claim to Kunz, according to the documents. Kunz had McKenrick fill out the ballot signature verification form, which contains an affirmation declaring that the signature on the form is the same as the signature on the absentee ballot return envelope. He reiterated that the discrepancy in his signature was intentional, the documents say.

2022 election guide

In doing so, McKenrick “knowingly engaged in deceptive election practices by causing a false statement and return to be signed and … made or presented a record or document knowing it to be false with the purpose that it be taken as genuine,” Haddon wrote.

McKenrick referenced a meeting he had about election security at the candidate forum, according to a recording provided to Montana Free Press by a Monitor reporter.

“Part of what I was told, and it kind of confuses me on this, is they check signatures,” McKenrick said at the forum. “They have a signature here, when a ballot comes in, they check signature to signature to verify it. You wouldn’t be able to read mine, and I don’t understand how — I mean, there are too many people who can forge really really well.”

Kunz directed questions about the charge to Haddon, who did not return a request for comment in time for publication. 

Bertoglio, McKenrick’s opponent in the primary, said trust and integrity should be paramount in an election.

“If our constituents are sending us to Helena to make law, then we need to respect the law, and that means following the law, quite frankly,” she said.