|May 23, 2011|
MSU Billings turns residence hall into emergency shelter
About 150 people from Crow Agency and Hardin expected to arrive at university this afternoon
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Rooms in one of two residence halls at Montana State University Billings will take on a new role this week: emergency shelter.
About 150 people from the Hardin and Crow Agency area will be arriving in Billings Monday afternoon and will be calling MSU Billings home for the next week or more. Two floors of rooms have been opened up at Petro Hall as emergency evacuation shelter space. More may be opened as needed.
Floods that have chased scores of people from their homes in south central Montana continue to rise and a temporary shelter in a Billings Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has become too small to meet the needs of the growing number of evacuees.
Coordinating efforts with the American Red Cross, MSU Billings administration agreed to accommodate the evacuees after it became clear more room was needed. About 35 people who were staying at an LDS Church on Belvedere Avenue began arriving at MSU Billings Monday afternoon and some buses of evacuees were expected to arrive from Hardin and the Crow Indian Reservation later in the day.
Terrie Iverson, vice chancellor for administrative services at MSU Billings, said an emergency services agreement with the Red Cross has been in place for about 20 years and this is the first time in her memory that it has actually had to be used.
She noted there was no question that MSU Billings would be willing to help those in need.
“We are the university for our community and are the university for our outlying communities as well,” she said.
Red Cross will establish a registration and information center near the Petro Hall theater entrance and the theater. After people check in, MSU Billings staff will assist them to their rooms. The staff will work to keep families together as best as possible and those who are single will be assigned a double room with a roommate.
Linens will be provided by the university and various toiletries have been donated by Hilton Garden Inn of Billings.
In addition, the Red Cross will be working with Sodexo Food Services (the MSU Billings food services provider) to make available some meals for the evacuees. MSU Billings Student Union Building staff will work to provide movies for children in the theater.
Continuing rain and flooding has led to voluntary evacuations in many areas and an emergency declaration on the Crow Reservation. It also forced officials to shut down Interstate 90 between Hardin and the Wyoming state line as well as the cancellation of graduation ceremonies at Lodge Grass High School and Plenty Coups High School in Pryor.
Dr. Stacy Klippenstein, vice chancellor of student affairs at MSU Billings, said his office has received some calls from MSU Billings students who are stranded by the flood and road closures and they are working with them to address concerns about missing summer semester classes.
The American Red Cross does not take material donations, but will need financial help in this crisis. For those who want to help, go to www.montanaredcross.org/ and click on “donate.”