Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency on the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap, and Northern Cheyenne reservations and in Glacier County and Golden Valley Valley County.
The communities of Heart Butte, Browning, and East Glacier have been especially hard-hit, with some areas recording more than 70 inches of snow just in February. Several storm systems in recent days have also caused ground blizzard conditions, leaving drifts of more than six feet in their week.
The Blackfeet Nation declared a state of emergency on January 4th due to the severe weather and accumulation of snow within the Blackfeet Reservation; the declaration remains in effect.
In Tuesday's press release, Bullock said, “The safety and security of Montanans must be our top priority. During these challenging winter conditions, we have been and will continue to communicate with local and tribal officials and offer state resources however necessary."
The declaration is in response to extreme cold and blizzard conditions with drifting snow that have created what Bullock called "extraordinary conditions" impacting most of Northwestern and Southeastern Montana.
The Montana State Emergency Coordination Center (SECC) began preparations and assistance for this winter storm event last week. The SECC has been in close coordination with the Incident Commander at the Blackfeet Tribe and a District Field Officer has been deployed to Browning as a resource for the Incident Commander. In addition, the Montana Department of Transportation is making available as many resources to the area as possible, including equipment and mechanics.
Bullock also issued an executive order for an extension of hours of operation for fuel delivery statewide, to ensure that needed fuel can be made available to Northwestern Montana.
The Blackfeet Tribe has established an Incident Command structure to manage the incident, field calls, and assist community members. One semi-load of food and two shipments of firewood have been donated and are available for distribution by the Tribe. The shelter in Browning remains open.
“We are working cooperatively with the Montana Department of Transportation, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as other counties and tribal entities lending mutual aid assistance,” said Robert DesRosier, Incident Commander for the Blackfeet Tribe. “We are pleased with the support and assistance we have received thus far in dealing with our situation.”
“We are working cooperatively with all the partners to provide assistance to the Blackfeet Tribe,” said Delila Bruno, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services Administrator.
Other locations across the state have experienced severe weather over the past several days as well. At Fort Belknap, officials have opened an Incident Command System and are assisting with hay donations, warming shelters, and firewood.
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council posted the following message just after 10 a.m. on Tuesday:
BLACKFEET TRIBE DISASTER AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 27, 2018
ATTENTION FOR RESIDENTS OF THE BLACKFEET RESERVATION
HWY 89 SOUTH FROM DUPUYER TO BROWNING IS CLOSED
HWY 89 NORTH IS CLOSED FROM BROWNING TO ST. MARY
ROUTE 1 IS CLOSED
ROUTE 4-AWAITING UPDATE AT THIS TIME
ROUTE 8 IS OPEN TO HWY 89
ROUTE 6 OPEN
ROUTE 13 IS OPEN
DURHAM ROAD IS CLOSED FROM 89 W ACROSS TO THE RAILROAD TRACKS SOUTH
MISSION EAST OPEN AS FAR AS LEONARD GUARDIPEE
MISSION WEST-AWAITING UPDATE AT THIS TIME
HWY 464 IS CLOSED
SECONDARY 358 CUT BANK TO VALIER-CLOSED
BLACKFEET COMMUNITY HOSPITAL IS OPEN
HEART BUTTE CLINIC IS CLOSED
BIA IS CLOSED
STAY TUNED FOR UPDATED WEATHER REPORT AND WEATHER ADVISORY
THEY ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON THE WATER SITUATION IN HEART BUTTE.
IF YOU ARE OR GET STRANDED IN BROWNING, THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE AMERICAN RED CROSS IS PROVIDING AN EMERGENCY SHELTER AT THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH ANNEX. YOU MAY CALL 338-3900.
PLEASE BE SAFE AND DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE THROUGH DRIFTS. THE SNOW IS PACKING AND MAKING IT DIFFICULT FOR PLOWS TO WORK WHERE PEOPLE ARE STUCK. DO NOT GO AROUND A ROAD CLOSED SIGN. IT IS CLOSED FOR A REASON
WE ARE WORKING TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITIES TO GET ROUTES OPEN
THE MAIN PRIORITY FOR PLOWS IS TO TRY AND CLEAR THE MAIN ROADS AND STREETS. COOPERATION FROM THE PUBLIC WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED. PLOWS WILL BE WORKING TO KEEP THESE ROUTES OPEN AND CONCENTRATE ON THE EMERGENCY PLOWING. IF YOU NEED TO GET PLOWED OUT TO GET BACK INTO YOUR HOME, YOU MAY HAVE TO HIRE A PRIVATE CONTRACTOR. WE ARE STILL TRYING TO ASSIST THOSE THAT ARE IN MOST NEED AND MEET THE EMERGENCY REQUIREMENTS.