Residents recount Highway 89 flash flood, road workers continue cleanup

PARK COUNTY

POSTED: 10:15 PM Jul 18 2013   UPDATED: 10:34 PM Jul 18 2013
GARDINER, Mont. -

Harry Miller and his wife Linda live on Highway 89, just outside of Corwin Springs near Gardiner. Miller tells me he was in Bozeman when he got a call from Linda.

"She told me it was raining really hard and my drainage was barely taking water and she thought something was going to happen," explains Miller.

Fifteen minutes later, Linda called back -- something did happen. She told him the road was impassible.

"I'm praying that my drainage that I've done on my own works and that this ditch holds in here," recounts Miller.

The couple took me to the top of a hill to get a better look at the path of the slide that washed over the road. Miller calls it a gully washer and tells me he's seen several since he moved in almost 40 years ago.

"It just gathers the water that hits and if it's a cloud burst and it dumps two inches of rain up there, it all headwaters in this creek...it comes right on down through this and it just gathers rocks, there's 4-foot rocks down there...When you step outside, you can hear it coming down through here," says Miller.

Standing on the side of the road, you can see where mud and water flattened grass in its path.

"When our crews responded there was anywhere from three to seven feet of rock and debris all the way across the roadway," says Montana Department of Transportation's Bozeman Maintenance Superintendent Steve Felix.

Felix chats with Miller about their progress.

He tells me close to an inch and a half of rain fell in just 15 minutes, sending the slide shooting down the ditch and across the road.

"We probably got four to five thousand cubic yards of material to move out of here so we can evaluate the culvert that's plugged underneath," says Felix.

Residents like Miller say they hope the Montana Department of Transportation will take a close look at that culvert before the next gully washer.

Miller saw little damage to his property. We're told neighbors had minimal damage to private property but there was no damage to homes.

Montana Department of Transportation crews from Helena will take a look at the roadway to ensure there's no permanent damage.

Crews in the Paradise Valley worked around moving traffic Thursday to try to clear rocks and debris from the roadway. Road workers tell us they hope to be close to wrapping up by the beginning of the week. Until then, you can expect delays of 5-10 minutes.