In this photo provided by the Montana Army National Guard, middle school students from the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible, attending a Bible camp along the Rocky Mountain Front, are guided onto a Chinook helicopter Thursday, 21 June 2018. The campers were flown to Great Falls after flooding earlier this week washed out the road to the camp. Photo: Montana Army National Guard / The Associated Press

By Matt Volz, Jamie Stengle, and Juan A. Lozano
22 June 2018

HELENA, Montana (Associated Press) – Helicopters rescued people stranded by flooding in Texas and Montana, including 140 children and counselors stuck in a mountain bible camp for two days, as severe storms swept the Rockies and the Midwest.

Campers attending the Montana Wilderness School of the Bible near the small town of Augusta were airlifted out Thursday after a washed-out road cut off the only exit. Montana was just drying out from spring flooding caused by near-record snowfall over the winter when a storm unleashed heavy rains last weekend.

Texas also saw deluges all week. The soaking in both states comes in stark contrast to the tinder-dry conditions of the American Southwest.

Floodwaters running through two cabins and staff housing woke the campers Tuesday, counselor Dustin Steele said.

"The dryers were going constantly trying to keep the sleeping bags and clothes dry," he said Thursday from the airport in Great Falls, shortly after campers were dropped off to meet their families. "It was hectic, but it was good."

They had enough food and supplies to stay until Friday, but the decision was made to get them out. The Montana Army National Guard sent two Chinook helicopters and made two trips each with about 30 campers and their luggage, Steele said. […]

Thunderstorms across Texas this week also brought heavy rains to areas that less than a year ago were hit by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, including the Corpus Christi area and the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, east of Houston. […]

Meanwhile, parts of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado were experiencing extreme or exceptional drought, forcing recent closures of national forests and other public lands because of fire danger. […]

In Montana, the remnants of Hurricane Bud met up with moisture from the Pacific Ocean to create a storm that hung over the western half of the state last weekend, said National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Syner in Great Falls.

"I can't point to any single thing that would make us an anomaly in the western half of the U.S.," Syner said. "We had a record winter season, and we had a storm track that just continued to bring weather systems over Montana."

That led to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of rain falling on the Rocky Mountain Front, causing waterways to overflow and wash out roads, bridges and even sweeping away wildlife.

The mother of one of the campers, Teresa Lane, had an adventure of her own when she and her 9-year-old daughter spotted a grizzly bear that had been swept away by a fast-running creek on her ranch near Augusta.

"I thought it was a dead cow originally," Lane said. "Then it flipped around, and it looked at me, and I said, 'Tiffany, it's a bear!'"

She and her daughter followed the bear for about a quarter-mile as it tried to get out. When it finally did, it limped and appeared agitated before running away.

"It was not a happy camper," she said. [more]

Campers, bear escape Montana flood as severe weather hits US

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