Locals lose family cabin to extreme flood waters

Hunter Herbaugh Ranger-review Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2022
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Above: The Cunningham cabin in better days. Right: The Cunningham’s found possessions downriver following the flood.

For one local family, riparian disasters well-upstream of Glendive hit home in a devastating way last week.

As major flooding events rocked communities throughout Southwest Montana, rivers such as the Stillwater and Yellowstone rose to record breaking elevations, and the shear power of the raging waters was enough to wipe out bridges, quickly erode banks and swallow up entire buildings.

Downstream communities in Eastern Montana didn’t experience the same issues. While the river rose high, there were no major flooding events reported east of Billings.

But for Pat and Linda Cunningham, the damage was all too real. The Glendive residents lost property and possessions when the Stillwater rose up and took the cabin they have owned five miles upstream from Nye, Mont. for the past 30 years.

The cabin has been on the banks of the river as part of a subdivision since the early 1950’s, but on June 13, the awesome power of the river reached out and took it away, along with four of their neighbors’ cabins along the same stretch of river.

“We spent a lot of summers there, the kids grew up there and we had a lot of Glendive people there over the years,” Pat said.

Thankfully, the Cunninghams weren’t in the cabin when the waters rose. They first realized their cabin was in danger when they saw a video of another cabin floating down the river. They recognized it as one of their neighbors’.

Though they had seen the news about the flooding, neither Pat nor Linda said they were concerned at first. Their cabin sat about 15 feet from the river, but it also sat well above the surface, with a fairly steep bank that it would have to go up to reach the cabin. However, with the tremendous surge of water that came in, the river swelled and had enough power to change course. The main channel of the river now runs through the location where the cabin once stood.

“We first knew we were in trouble when we saw video of the cabin two down from us floating down the river,” Linda explained. “We knew it was our neighbor, we recognized the green roof. Ours didn’t fair as well, ours was in pieces, broke apart when it hit the river.”

After seeing that, they went to their cabin on Friday, June 10 to try and get what they could out. After arriving, they packed up what they could, stayed the night and left the next day. By Monday, they received word that the cabin was gone.

With only a day to grab what they could, that of course meant the Cunninghams had to leave quite a bit behind. Once the cabin was gone, they did manage to find some of their belongings piled up about a quarter mile down stream. While they were able to pull some things out, there was plenty that was unrecoverable. Primarily, they said the most important thing they lost was their collection of guest books, signed by all the friends and neighbors that had visited the cabin over the last 30 years.

“That’s the stuff we’ll really miss,” Pat said.

Still, they are thankful that they are safe and sound and that no one else was hurt either.

“We are so glad that nobody was injured during this ordeal. There are many communities that are really hurting at this time and our hearts go out to everyone affected,” Linda said.

What they will do next though is uncertain at this time. Currently, the waters are still too high to try to salvage anything else and with all the bridges in the area currently out, access is severely limited for the time being. They also noted that – as a family property – they will have to discuss the matter with their children to see what they want to do next.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.