GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A passing motorist rescued a woman trapped on top of a vehicle nearly submerged by the frigid floodwaters that have covered roads and threatened homes and farms across northern Montana, a witness said Thursday.
Blake Wombold told the Great Falls Tribune he was driving along U.S. Highway 2 near Dunkirk, about 100 miles north of Great Falls, on Tuesday night when the truck ahead of him stopped along the roadway partially covered with water. He heard yelling in the distance and turned to see a woman standing on top of her vehicle off the highway, with the water rushing all around.
“Then I saw the guy in the passenger seat (of the truck) start stripping off his clothes and taking his wallet and phone out of this pocket,” Wombold said.
The man reached the woman, but she was initially afraid to swim in the cold water.
“The other guy in the water convinced her she needed to get to safety and put her in front of them and they swam across the water,” he said.
A video posted on Facebook by Kalispell resident Matt McCollam shows the rescue. McCollam said in his post that his brother Seth rescued the woman and gave her a blanket to warm herself, before driving her up the highway to meet her husband.
Neither Matt nor Seth McCollam immediately responded to email requests for comment.
A Montana Highway Patrol call log on the incident described the woman as 61 years old and said her sport utility vehicle had gone about 40 feet off the highway. A law enforcement officer arrived on the scene after the woman and her rescuer already left, according to the report, which was released to The Associated Press after a public records request.
Officers later located the woman at a Chester residence a half hour east of the rescue and described her as “uninjured but very cold,” according to the report.
Rapidly melting snow after a winter of nearly record snowfall is swelling streams and causing flooding across much of the U.S. Highway 2 corridor near the U.S.-Canada border.
Gov. Steve Bullock declared a flooding emergency in seven counties, the Fort Belknap Reservation and the town of Chester. Several homes have been evacuated 100 miles east of Chester in the town of Harlem.
The Milk River, which runs parallel to the highway, is expected to be in flood stage until early May, according to the National Weather Service.