Montana Governor Returns Home After Historic and Critical Flooding

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte was expected to return home Thursday, six days after his state was inundated with historical flood that closed Yellowstone National Park and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Word of The governor’s return came a day after his spokeswoman reported that Gianforte, who left the country last week for what his aides described as a “long-term personal trip” With his wife, Susan, he was trying to get home “as soon as possible and as quickly as possible,” he said. NBC Montana.

While the governor’s office declined to say exactly where Gianforte was, he said he has been in communication with his team in Helena, the capital, and has been keeping abreast of the unfolding calamity in the state through social media. social.

A home stands in Rock Creek after floodwaters washed away a road and bridge in Red Lodge, Mont., on Wednesday. David Goldman/AP

Gianforte, Republican elected in 2020, he tweeted on Tuesday that it was declaring “a statewide disaster due to flooding to help affected communities recover as quickly as possible.”

But the first inkling most Montanans had that Gianforte was out of state came Wednesday when the state’s formal request for major disaster relief landed on President Joe Biden’s desk with the signature of the Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras. “On behalf of Governor Greg Gianforte.”

Biden approved the Montana Disaster Declaration that will send recovery funds to the beleaguered state, the White House said Thursday. He did it while Gianforte was still on his way to Montana.

Gianforte’s spokeswoman, Brooke Stroyke, did not respond to a question about exactly what time the governor would arrive.

Gianforte did not take the private jet he uses regularly to travel around the sprawling state and is registered with Bozeman Technology Incubator Inc., a company he and his wife own.

Flight logs showed that since Tuesday morning the plane has been parked at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport.

Residents clean up mud, water and debris from the main street in Red Lodge, Montana, on Tuesday. Matthew Brown/AP

The deluge that sparked the crisis in Montana began last Friday, when the southwestern corner of the state was hit by heavy rains that, combined with melting snow, caused the Yellowstone River to rise to near-record levels.

By Monday, thousands of tourists and locals were stranded by rising waters that washed away bridges, isolated many communities in Park, Carbon and Stillwater counties and caused catastrophic flooding in cities like Red Lodge, Billings and Livingston. Some 10,000 visitors were moved out of the national park.

A headline in a story on Wednesday in the Montana Free Press it summed up the growing frustration felt by many residents that their governor was gone.

Where is Greg Gianforte? he said he.

“The fact that [the flooding] it’s so extreme and his office has been pretty recalcitrant about where he is and what’s going on is not good,” Eric Austin, a Montana State University professor who teaches a class on leadership and government ethics, told the news outlet.

Democrats criticized Gianforte this week for not disclosing that he was not in the country while the state was dealing with a calamity.

“At a time of unprecedented economic disaster and uncertainty, Gianforte intentionally kept Montanans in the dark about where he was and who was really in charge,” Sheila Hogan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Again, we ask, where in the world is Governor Gianforte?”

Gianforte made national news five years ago when he body-slammed a reporter for The Guardian newspaper. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and later apologized to reporter Ben Jacobs, admitting his behavior was “unprofessional, unacceptable and illegal.”

Jay Blackman contributed.

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