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Residents, volunteers begin cleanup after storm tears through Twin Bridges

Published On: Aug 02 2013 10:14:12 PM MDT
Updated On: Aug 02 2013 10:50:24 PM MDT
TWIN BRIDGES, Mont. -

Damage can be seen everywhere you look after fierce winds ripped through a southwest Montana town.

NBC Montana's First Alert team has been in Twin Bridges all day -- finding out how residents and neighbors are picking up the pieces, and talking to folks who watched the storm roar in.

The National Weather Service hit the ground in Twin Bridges and determined the damage was caused by straight line winds, that reached 91 miles an hour.

Madison County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Steve DiGiovanna talked to us today. He witnessed the storm and knows there's a lot of cleanup to be done.

He says falling trees damaged historical buildings including the museum, and the roof was ripped off a veterinary clinic outside of town. DiGiovanna says an airport hangar was destroyed, a trailer was crushed by falling trees, and a grandstand at the Madison County fairgrounds was flipped over and destroyed. Businesses suffered significant damage.

A large, downed tree was once the town's Christmas tree. Residents tell us they have decorated the tree for more than 30 years. But as you look around you find it's just one of many trees uprooted by Thursday's storm.

Residents tell us everything happened very fast as they ran for cover.

"It was just a big mass of dirt and dust." From the airport just outside of town, Kendra Horn watched the storm tear through Twin Bridges and head straight toward her.

"We watched, and it picked up this hangar...and blew it out into the field," Horn said. "There was an airplane -- a little kid airplane -- and it took it out."

One of Horn's coworkers at Ruby Valley Aviation left the shelter of the hangar for a better view.

"He was standing outside, kind of watching it come, and it picked him up and blew him into the bushes," Horn said.

The man was OK, but back in town the devastation was something residents of Twin Bridges had never seen before in their small town.

"You just see trees uprooted, and debris everywhere," said resident Katie Corrigan, who grew up here. "You never think something like this would really happen in Twin Bridges."

The storm spared her home but her neighbors weren't as fortunate.

"(My neighbor's) kids were hiding in the hallway and the windows all got blown out. Their roof got ripped off, and the garage roof got ripped," said Corrigan.

On Friday, with the power still down, the town focused on picking up.

"Community members, volunteer people, everyone's just really pulled together and started cleaning up the mess," said Horn.

Of the cleanup, Corrigan said, "What's happening right now is what everyone wants to see happen."

No serious injuries were reported.