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Montana's Flooding. Where In The World Is Gov. Greg Gianforte?
Add your own 'Appalachian Trail' jokes. God knows we did.
With historic flooding that's converted much of south central Montana from the Big Sky state to the Muddy Water state, Gov. Greg Gianforte has been out of the country since sometime last week, before the flooding began. His office would only say that he and First Lady Susan Gianforte on a "long-planned personal trip," although spokespeople haven't said where in the world the governor is, exactly. Probably for security reasons, we bet, because the Gianfortes are rescuing endangered baby animals with big eyes from drug lords in war-torn Cordovia. Or they didn't want anyone to know just how they're living it up somewhere swanky.
Montana is in a world of hurt, with the flooding Yellowstone River tearing up roads so badly that Yellowstone National Park is completely closed; some 10,000 visitors had to be evacuated. While parts of the park may reopen by Monday, the northern entrance to the park, where large sections of road are gone, may not reopen at all this season. (For shits and giggles, the video below switches from helicopter footage to a series of still photos 50 seconds in; your computer is not broken.)
Multiple small towns along the Yellowstone have seen flooding and infrastructure damage; roads and bridges in several counties have been damaged, and repairs are underway where possible. Road access to the towns of Gardiner and Cooke City was temporarily cut off for a time, but has been restored; some roads remain limited to local and emergency traffic. Several homes along the river were flooded out or washed away entirely as the river cut away at its banks.
Seems like an opportune time to mention that in 2021, Gianforte withdrew Montana from the US Climate Alliance, a coalition of states working together to meet climate goals. At the time, his office explained that Gianforte "believes the solution to climate change is unleashing American innovation, not overbearing government mandates." Maybe he favors mitigating the effects of climate change by filling Montana rivers with debris from roads and houses. That's innovative.
By Wednesday evening, the level of the river through Billings had begun to decline, but city officials warned residents to use water sparingly. The city's water plant was shut down Tuesday due to flooding; it began operating again Wednesday, but is only able to provide enough clean water to meet "essential" needs for the coming days.
In a statement to media Wednesday, a spokesperson for Gianforte would only say "The governor is returning early and as quickly as possible," although the governor's office still had no word on where he'd be returning from or how soon that might happen. which suggests Gianforte must be hard to reach or absolutely refuses to check out early, do you know how hard it was to get this place?
Gianforte has apparently been in some kind of communication with his office; on Monday, he gave verbal authorization for a disaster declaration and also “express written authorization” for Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras to act in his place. Juras signed an executive order Tuesday declaring a statewide disaster.
Oh yes, here's another fun detail, from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Wednesday:
Hannah Slusser, Juras’ executive assistant, did not respond to requests for a copy of the governor's written authorization putting Juras in charge by Wednesday afternoon.
It certainly would be cynical to speculate maybe there's no written authorization at all because no one is willing to admit that Gov. Gianforte was lured to an eccentric friend's mansion by the promise of getting to taste an excellent vintage of wine or children, but hasn't been seen since.
The Daily Chronicle notes that despite Gianforte's absence, his official Twitter account has been quite busy, producing a whole bunch of tweets about the flooding, as well as retweeting other Montana accounts. None of them have mentioned that Gianforte is out of the country.
Yesterday, The Governor Himself — it had to be him, since it was written using the royal "we" — tweeted that he, or they, had been "working with FEMA yesterday to pursue an expedited presidential major disaster declaration" and that "we today submitted our formal request" to President Biden.
“After working with FEMA yesterday to pursue an expedited presidential major disaster declaration for flooding in our state, we today submitted our formal request to @POTUS. Securing the declaration will help our communities with our shared response, recovery, and rebuilding.”
— Governor Greg Gianforte (@Governor Greg Gianforte) 1655327017
As of blogtime, Biden hasn't yet responded, though we're certain he will, even though Montana didn't vote for him. He's sweet that way, and probably won't even ask that the paperwork be tested for traces of Gianforte's DNA.
As we were preparing to post this story, we learned from the Twitters that Gianforte's office had emailed a brief press release saying he's scheduled to return to the state tonight. Like, unless he's abducted by UFOs on his flight back from the Pleasure Pits of Pottsylvania.
Wonder if anyone will ask him any questions about his trip? Or more to the point, how he'll answer? Will he body slam any reporters?
UPDATE: According toNewsy reporter Maritsa Georgiou , the Gianfortes have been vacationing in Tuscany, per a timestamped photo. And yes, Gianforte's office is now saying his location had to be kept secret for "security reasons."
“Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office says he will be back in Montana tonight. They say they do not share his location when he's out of the country for security reasons. @Newsy has obtained a time stamped photo that shows he's been in the Tuscany region of Italy. #mtnews #mtpol”
— Maritsa Georgiou (@Maritsa Georgiou) 1655399087
Get over yourself, dude. You're not in any danger from Tuscan Raiders.
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