During last Saturday’s violent winds the community of Florence was temporarily sealed off to all traffic, according to Florence Fire Chief Charlie Lambson. At one point in the storm a power line came down across the highway blocking access into Florence. According to Lambson, all the back roads into Florence were also blocked by downed trees and power lines so that no traffic could enter for about two hours. He said it did cause a disruption in ambulance service.
East of town along the river at the Florence Bridge, a downed powerline sparked a fire. The fire burned a couple of acres on the north side of the Florence bridge and on the west side of the river. The fire was mostly quenched by nightfall, although a tree did re-kindle and torch during the night.
Lambson said it was a hectic day and the fire department responded to about 15 calls for assistance. Only one was a fire, the others consisted of things like a gas leak, downed power lines and blocked roads, all mostly related to downed trees.
Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey, who made hot chili available at Town Hall during the power outage, said that some downed trees knocked the power out for many of Stevensville’s residents for up to 14 hours. He said the Police Department went through the neighborhoods during the outage checking to see if anyone was at risk due to the outage. He said power was restored around midnight.
According to the Montana Department of Transportation, the wind gusts caused a semi-trailer to flip near Stevensville, blocking all four lanes on U.S. Highway 93.
Hamilton Fire Chief Brad Mohn reported that Hamilton did not see the kind of storm damage that occurred in the north valley. He said there were no fires reported and no blocked roads during the event.
Wind gusts in the valley were clocked at up to 60 mph. But on the mountain peaks near Missoula the wind reached gusts of up to 100 mph, according to the National Weather Service.