Two days after Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency for parts of the state due to severe winter weather, he got a tour of Browning.
Bullock flew to the Blackfeet Reservation with the Montana Army National Guard on Thursday.
He met with Blackfeet leaders to discuss what help they need, and then boarded a bus and was driven through town to see how big of a problem the snow has become.
As the bus drove down roads, some drifts rose to the tops of homes and snow banks were so tall, they blocked the view from the bus.
Bullock says seeing this situation in person really gave him an appreciation for the work everyone has been doing to help the communities hit hardest by this weather.
The Heart Butte community joined together on Thursday to help stranded families get food and supplies.
“We are one big family, when stuff like this happens, snow storms, disasters, the community comes together for everybody” said Roy Crawford, program director for the Blackfeet Food Distribution and the Blackfeet Food bank.
Trucks with food came from as far a way as Utah, delivering both dried goods, meats.
Crawford said some of the loads of food and water were donated by the Albertsons Companies LLC.
(FEBRUARY 27, 2018) 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.