Authorities: Residents in some areas of county should prepare to shelter in place

Ty McDuffey
Saturday, December 18, 2021
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A rig drives on Pine Creek Road in Paradise Valley as snow begins to drift Saturday afternoon. (Enterprise photo by Justin Post)

Residents in some areas of Park County should prepare to shelter in place due to blowing and drifting snow, officials said Saturday evening.

A Park County "Snow Emergency Alert" notified residents on Saturday that Swingley, West Boulder, Trail Creek, Divide, and Mission Cr. Roads could not be kept open due to blowing snow. The alert said that people on those roads should be careful and be prepared to stay at home until Monday.

"Other roads may drift closed as well," the alert stated. "The Road Department will try to open all roads Monday morning."

According to Dann Babcox, Park Rural Fire District #1 chief, emergency personnel began responding to calls at 3 a.m. of zero visibility and vehicles sliding off the road on Interstate 90. Babcox reported no serious injuries or hospitalizations, but five semi-trucks and several cars were ditched.

Babcox urged people in town to use alternate streets, like Lewis, Clark, or Geyser, and to avoid Park Street when going across the railroad tracks.

"We're not making these requests or asking roads to be diverted or closed for no good reason," Babcox said. "There’s a reason for it. We were out there in it, and we’re recognizing that there’s a big problem. Until the wind stops blowing, people are in harm's way.”

A FEMA alert Saturday said to expect winds of up to 80 mph. Because of the strong winds, Babcox urged people to use east and west streets. “Having these detours in place saves lives – not only the public but first responders.”

As winter weather approaches, the Montana State Office of Emergency Management recommends keeping a flashlight, blanket, basic first-aid supplies, non-perishable food items, and water in your vehicle as an emergency car kit.

Park County Emergency Services encouraged residents to carry a shovel and emergency supplies when driving in blowing snow on Saturday. Park County also instructed residents that 911 response delays are possible, but not to delay calling for help if there’s an emergency.

Meanwhile Saturday evening, traffic on Interstate 90 at one point was backed up for miles west of Livingston as traffic was routed through the city due to high winds.