Keep Water Running says Red Lodge:

59 homes without water and number expected to grow
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, March 7, 2019

Photo by Alastair Baker
Patrick Stokes, a community volunteer, hauls two 5-gallon buckets of water to a residence in Red Lodge effected by frozen water lines. He also dropped off a half dozen gallon plastic containers of drinking water.

On Thursday, March 7, Red Lodge Mayor Bill Larson called an impromptu meeting of city and county officials to discuss the growing number of city residents without water due to frozen service lines.  Although less than 2 percent of residents are currently affected, the number could grow.

Jim Bushnell of city Public Works said “They are spread out north, south, east, and west. We’ve tried everything-electric heating and steam, nothing works to thaw it.” It cost thousands of dollars to try with no results. It also costs “$1,200-2,000” or more to locate whose part of the service line is affected, the city or the homeowners. For now, they are just trying to help people in need.

Regarding lines already frozen, Bushnell said, “I don’t believe there’s anything we can do. There’s no magic wand.” The emphasis is resident relief and the prevention of additional homes losing water.

He recommends everyone in the city run just one faucet with a “pencil line” of water constantly, to keep all lines open and avoid greater trouble and expense. If a few homes run the water and one doesn’t it can still freeze the lines.  “We expect some lines to break. Especially the galvanized ones,” says Bushnell. A regular thaw is not expected until April.

He cautions not to open every faucet since it will run up your bill; just one will do.

The mayor asks all impacted residents to contact their insurance companies to see if their homeowner’s policies cover it. Likewise, the City will be checking with insurance companies.

“We need to supply drinking water, water to wash their hands, to shower,” he said. Currently, there are some existing public bathrooms around town and at the Civic Center.

Many residents are trying to make do, they are going to their neighbors for water or hauling it from friends. But some homes are set apart and have no help. Assisting the elderly and flu season were other concerns.

“It’s flu season, there are health concerns. They need to flush toilets and wash hands,” said Roberta Cady from the Health Department.

“It’s Word, it’s Platt, it’s Hagan, they’re (homes) everywhere. But not on the Golf Course,” said Bushnell

Bushnell said it is creating hardships. “People are suffering..” He cited one family where the woman had cancer and the man had to haul water. Kuntz said an employee is hauling water from his restaurant.

The mayor asked what aid is available. Commissioner Bill Bullock asked Tom Kohley, Carbon County’s liaison for Disaster and Emergency Services, what steps could be taken. Kohley said there is a process to access higher funding but steps must be taken first locally.

Tom Kuntz, Red Lodge Fire Chief, explained. “Before any county or state funds are touched, the city must first declare a State of Emergency and access its city 2 mill levy (funds) and any possible expansion. “Then we can go to the next level,” said Kohley. “Generally, the State looks to the local community to do that.”

Kuntz said he will direct one of his people to help set up an action plan. RLFR will issue a reverse 911 notice to all those on landlines or cell phones that are registered with information and referral.

The city will determine how funds should be directed such as possibly supplying palettes of water bottles and access to showers. They will set up headquarters at the Red Lodge Fire Department.

The service lines have frozen, not the main lines, says Bushnell. No sewer lines are frozen.

Bushnell says it takes “thousands” of dollars to detect which part of a service line for just one line is frozen and where. The city owns part of the service lines; the homeowners own the rest.

“I’ve seen 4 or 5 homes freeze in the winter but nothing like this in the 20 years I’ve been here,” Bushnell said.

During the 1991-92 winter, a cold snap froze water pipes to over 100 homes. 

Residents who lose water should contact City Hall: 446-1606 and stay tuned for further updates. The City will put up further instructions on its website.

The public can also either donate funds or drinking water bottles to the City to help them get supplies to homes.  




Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 29, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, April 1, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.