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Guard looks for stranded motorists

HELENA – The Montana Army National Guard dispatched two helicopters Tuesday to help locate motorists stranded by a snowstorm in southeastern Montana.

Guard Maj. Tim Crowe said a Chinook and a Blackhawk chopper loaded with warm clothing, sleeping bags and food were sent to the area Tuesday afternoon to search along U.S. Highway 212 between Broadus and Alzada.

“We were able to land and check several vehicles that had not been searched yet. No individuals were found at any of the locations,” said Crowe, who estimated that between 12 and 15 vehicles had been abandoned.

The search was called off at about dusk, and crews will begin searching the Broadus, Ekalaka and Alzada areas this morning, Crowe said.

A fierce storm that blew through the southeastern corner of Montana at 30 mph Monday appeared to let up Tuesday morning, but some roads were still closed in Powder River, Carter and Fallon counties.

“We have drifts right out here in front of the sheriff’s office 4 feet deep,” Powder River County Dispatcher Frankie George said. “They’re 8 to 10 feet deep on the road just outside of town.”

Two snow plows and their drivers were stuck on the roads overnight after the plows went out to try to free some stranded tractor-trailer trucks.

Both plows were back in service Tuesday, said Charity Watt Levis, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Transportation.

State Highway 7 between Baker and Ekalaka reopened before noon Tuesday but U.S. Highway 212 and Montana Highway 59 from Baker south to the Wyoming line were still closed, Watt Levis said.

“South Dakota is plowing their way towards us and Wyoming is plowing our way, so we’re working together,” she said.