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The rescuer and the rescued: Two men recount last year's historic Montana floods

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Posted at 5:35 PM, Jun 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-13 19:35:03-04

Last June’s historic floods in southern Montana impacted everyone from community members to tourists. Denver resident Jacob Showers and Belgrade helicopter pilot Mark Taylor experienced the flooding on opposite sides of similar situations.

Showers, a Billings Senior High grad living in Colorado, was among the almost 90 people who became stranded either in or near Yellowstone National Park last June.

“That was pretty crazy,” said Showers last Wednesday over Zoom.

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He and his then girlfriend were on the Beaten Path, which connects East Rosebud to Cooke City, when raging rivers began spilling their banks.
 
“We stayed the night in East Rosebud. We woke up the next morning to trail run. We finished trail running and then we tried to leave, and then we couldn’t,” Showers said.

He said the East Rosebud River had grown to 10 to 20 times its normal size.

“It wasn’t that water was over the road. It was that there was no road at all anymore in three different areas,” said Showers.

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This meant Showers and at least 60 others were stranded at the lake, not knowing how or when they’d be able to leave, with little connection to the outside world.

“For the next three days we basically cut firewood and rationed food and did inventory of everything, and took out stuff from the fridges and the freezers so it didn’t go bad,” Showers said.

On day three, they heard the sweet sounds of helicopter blades. The Montana National Guard had come to the rescue with Blackhawks and a Chinook.

“Out of nowhere, we’re like, oh my gosh we’re leaving, so we had to grab all our stuff really fast. And it was like, oh my gosh, my car is likely to stay here,” said Showers.

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His Tesla sat for six weeks until finally he and others in the same predicament came up with $60,000 to have their vehicles flown back to civilization.

“I got a call and they pieced together where basically this private pilot just got all of our cars out at once. And so let’s say it took the cost of 60 grand divided by 20, 22,” Showers said.

Meanwhile, 150 miles west in Gardiner, Rocky Mountain Rotors owner and pilot Mark Taylor was on the other side of a similar situation.

“The amount of shoreline that the river was taking out was pretty incredible,” said Taylor.

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The Yellowstone River had washed away all roads leading out of Gardiner, leaving tourists stranded in the town.

“There was some panic. There was some panic with people over there,” Taylor said.

Taylor and his team spent the next several days flying one person after another, around 40 people total, to safety. Among them were a pregnant woman and several senior citizens.

“As soon as people were in there and we lifted off, you would think we were leaving some type of war zone or something ‘cuz they were so excited to be moving,” said Taylor.

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While the floods are now a distant memory for many, it’s an experience neither Showers nor Taylor will forget.

“Nobody went in the water that I know of that got hurt during that. It’s pretty amazing,” said Taylor.

And Showers is already planning to return to pick up where he left off after his vacation was cut unexpectedly short.

“As soon as there’s a road built to East Rosebud, I will be back for sure,” Showers said.