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TeacherLore

Remembering Montana’s 1964 Flood

What is described by many as “Montana’s worst natural disaster? is a receding memory for most today – except in the remote places where it hit hardest.

University of Great Falls English Professor Aaron Parret will present a program at the Montana Historical Society Thursday Nov. 4 at 6:30 p.m. to talk about the state’s 1964 flood that took the lives of thirty people, tore up hundreds of thousands of acres, and cost an estimated $62 million in 1964 currency.

Although it wasn’t the “perfect storm,? Parret said that the combination of weather, a phenomenon known as “orographic lifting,? and other factors led to a storm “that occurs only once every five thousand years.?

Many areas were hard hit, but among the worst were a band from roughly Kalispell to Great Falls. Between June 7 and 8, Browning received more than eight inches of rain, 10 inches in Glacier National Park, 13 inches southwest of Augusta, and 11 inches at Heart Butte.

In effect, nearly an average year’s worth of precipitation fell in a 24-hour period. What was worse was that heavy snow pack also melted and greatly added to runoff.

Montana’s bigger cities where journalists could get around to record the devastation had their problems well documented, and they were tragic.

However, Parret said that the Blackfeet Indian Reservation suffered monumental losses of lives and property that only a few that don’t live on the reservation are aware of yet today.

Raging rivers and streams on the reservation destroyed 265 homes, 20,000 acres of hayland, two large dams, irrigation equipment for 37,000 acres, and what was worse, all 30 of the people who lost their lives in the terrible storm lived on the reservation.

Parret’s talk is based on an extensive article he wrote that appeared in the Society’s “Montana The Magazine of Western History? in the summer 2004 issue. Copies can still be purchases at the Society store, which will be open Thursday evening for the talk. The program is free and open to everyone

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