Written by Angela Rose Benson
These wrecked tanker cars remain on the ground as a nearby crew from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway work to clean up the derailment east of Culbertson that dumped about 35,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil on the ground. It was the second BNSF derailment in eastern Roosevelt County within two days. (Photos by Angela Rose Benson)
Approximately 30 residents who were evacuated from their homes east of Culbertson following the derailment of 22 Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tanker cars carrying Bakken crude oil Thursday, July 16, returned to their homes Friday evening.
According to Michael Cole, public affairs specialist for the Federal Railroad Administration, “The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is conducting investigation of the incident.”
Since the incident, the scene has been contained, traffic has resumed and cleanup is underway.
U.S. Hwy. 2 travel has resumed following a road closure which occurred immediately following the derailment and lasted until Friday afternoon.
According to Matt Jones, BNSF director of public affairs for the Montana and Wyoming Region, the 106-car westbound train consisted of full crude oil tankers and two buffer cars filled with sand.
The train derailed at approximately 6:05 p.m., five miles east of Culbertson, leaching about 35,000 gallons of crude oil.
According to Lee Allmer, Roosevelt County public information officer, while no fires occurred, a power line was involved in the incident leaving a number of people without power once electricity was shut off in an effort to maintain safety. Several community members were supplied with generators from BNSF until their power was restored.
“Roosevelt County sees more Bakken crude oil traffic than any other county in the nation,” said Allmer. “This is because BNSF trains are going either west or south, and in order to break off towards their destination, they must past through our county.”
Crude oil was released from derailed cars but was contained and is being removed from the scene under the supervision of BNSF environmental specialists.
“We are currently cooperating with the Federal Railroad Administration on the investigation into the cause of the incident,” Jones said.
The train was traveling at approximately 40 miles-per-hour at the time of the derailment. Two of the railcars in the incident were government issued newer-style tanker car created to improve railroad safety.
“It is the county’s hope that these cars will be included in a study to see if the design changes are an improvement from the more standard style of railcar,” Allmer said.
The Culbertson Fire Department was initially on scene and served as the incident command until BNSF was able to get to the scene and assume that control. Multiple response agencies were involved in the response efforts, including the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol and Roosevelt Medical Center Emergency Services Department. No injuries were reported.
“All of the response agencies worked very well together on this incident. Everyone knew to follow the instructions of the incident commander and also when to turn that authority over to BNSF at the appropriate time,” said Dan Sietsema, Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator for Roosevelt County.
Earlier this year, response agencies completed oil train derailment response training given by Justin Piper, a Hazmat trainer for BNSF out of Seattle, Wash.
“This derailment response was handled successfully in part because of this training,” Sietsema added.
Written by John Plestina
The first photo is Smiley Johnson, exalted ruler of Glasgow Elks Lodge No. 1922, with Wolf Point Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler and new Montana State Elks Association President Darla Downs in front of Johnson’s 1957 Chevy with the elk hood ornament at the MSEA summer convention in Wolf Point Friday, July 17. The second picture is Wolf Point Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler and Montana State Elks Association first vice president Darla Downs (center) presenting the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Ronald Hicks (left) of Fredericksburg, Va., with a Montana Silversmith belt buckle to commemorate his trip to Montana during the MSEA’s Grand Exalted Ruler’s banquet Friday, July 17. Hicks was installed as the national GER in Indianapolis, Ind., two weeks ago. Past Exalted Ruler Gene Pronto (right) served as emcee for the evening. Downs was elected and installed as Elks state president Saturday.
(Photos by John Plestina)
Wolf Point Elks Lodge No. 1764 hosted the Montana State Elks Association Summer Convention for the first time Thursday through Saturday, July 16-18.
A highlight of the convention was the election and installation of Wolf Point Lodge No. 1764 exalted ruler and Herald-News and Searchlight publisher Darla Downs as Montana State Elks Association president. She becomes the youngest MSEA president in its 113-year history.
Another first for Wolf Point was the official visit of Elks 2015-2016 Grand Exalted Ruler Ronald Hicks and wife Nancy Hicks of Fredericksburg Va., making their first stop in Wolf Point on their official road trip since his installation as GER two weeks ago in Indianapolis, Ind. It was their first trip to Montana.
Hicks’ theme for the coming year is “Elks pride and community focus,” which he stressed during the convention.
“I applaud Montana,” he said, thanking Montana Elks lodges for community service across the state.
Hicks called community service the “great heart of Elkdom.”
He urged a can-do spirit from each lodge.
“Every lodge across this country has issues. I know you’re working to make your lodge a success,” Hicks said.
He stressed that boosting membership must be a priority for a lodge to be a success.
“One person can make a difference. One person can be a spark in your lodge,” Hicks said.
“Don’t dwell on the negative,” he said.
Hicks urged to Elks to communicate.
“So much depends on the exalted ruler and the lodge secretary. Let them know who you are. Put a face on your lodge,” he said.
Hicks reminded the people attending the convention that the only requirements to join the Elks are being 21 year old or older, a belief in God and to pledge their allegiance to the flag of the United States.
Downs, who was unopposed for state president, was unanimously elected along with two other people seeking offices without opposition.
Those people were Fred Barrett of Thompson Falls, first vice president; and Bob Stephens of Kalispell, secretary/treasurer.
Susie Larson of Bozeman defeated Dan York of Stevensville for second vice president.
Dennis Cooper of Deer Lodge was reelected as a trustee, defeating Marcus Burnham of Hamilton.
The 2016 summer convention will be held in Deer Lodge. The annual summer convention has been held in the past in Glasgow and in Sidney in 2014, but never before in Wolf Point. The local lodge hosted a mid-winter state Elks meeting in 1985.
Written by Angela Rose Benson
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway employees work near Fort Kipp Wednesday, July 15, to restore rail service following the first of two BNSF derailments in eastern Roosevelt County within two days. (Photo by Angela Rose Benson)
Little information was available from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway following the derailment of an eastbound mixed merchandise train near Fort Kipp, which created little incidence and no injuries. The derailment occurred Tuesday, July 14, at approximately 4:30 p.m. 10 miles west of Culbertson.
The train originated in Washington state.
All cars remained upright and nothing was spilled. The track returned to service on Thursday, July 16, at 12:15 p.m.
According to Lee Allmer, public information officer for Roo-sevelt County, Amtrak passengers waited for nearly 36 hours in Wolf Point before BNSF was able to get the rails open and running.
According to reports, about a mile of track was damaged.
Written by John Plestina
Does size really matter?
After all, small towns might have big things going on that could reflect the communities in a positive light.
Here we are in Wolf Point, located in Montana’s outback with some 3,000 souls, with three big things over the last weekend, just one week after the 92nd annual Wild Horse Stampede and once in a lifetime Wolf Point Centennial celebration. Wolf Point hosted the Montana State Elks Association Summer Convention for the first time, Thursday through Saturday, July 16-18. Delegates came from every part of Montana and several visiting Elks came from other states, including the Wyoming state Elks president.
Wolf Point Lodge No. 1764 exalted ruler and Herald-News publisher Darla Downs was elected and sworn in as Montana State Elks Association president. She is the youngest president in MSEA’s 113-year history.
Even higher up in Elkdom was a visit by 2015-2016 Grand Exalted Ruler Ron Hicks of Fredericksburg Va., the highest ranking Elk in the nation, making his first stop in Wolf Point on his first road trip as Grand Exalted Ruler, which also happened to be his first trip to Montana. Wolf Point was the first impression of Montana [other than the Billings airport] for Hicks and his wife Nancy.
So Wolf Point history was made.
Yes, I am an Elk, the secretary of the Wolf Point lodge and very proud to have been a part of all that was happening this past weekend.
Here are a few “claims to fame” by other small communities that couldn’t hold a candle to Wolf Point.
Brunswick, Mo., has claimed the world’s largest pecan.
Sumner Mo., claims Maxie, a 40-foot-tall fiberglass goose. Whoo hoo. Wolf Point definitely topped that.
If a fiberglass goose doesn’t get you excited, how about the world’s largest catsup bottle, or ketchup if you prefer. There is no difference. It’s like potato and potahto or tomato and tomahto. That’s the big attraction in Collinsville, Ill. The 70-foot-tall catsup bottle atop of a 100-foot steel base that serves as a water tower was first erected nearly 70 years ago next to, you guessed it, a catsup [or ketchup] factory. It was torn down during the 1960s and rebuilt in the 1990s as a tourist trap, reportedly the only reason people visit the tiny burgh.
If you like offbeat attractions, Cawker City, Kan., is home to the world’s largest ball of twine, purported to attract about 300 visitors a week. People have been adding twine since 1953 and continue to do so.
Soap Lake, Wash., boasts the world’s largest lava lamp.
Neillsville, Wisc., is home to Chatty Belle, alleged to be the world’s largest talking cow. I’m not planning a trip to Wisconsin.
Bangor, Maine, and Bemidji, Minn., both have larger than life statues of Paul Bunyan, and claim to be the hometown of the mythical lumberjack.
Closer to home, Garrison, N.D., boasts the 26-foot “Wally Walleye.” Imagine catching that in Fort Peck Lake.
I wonder how many of those towns other than Bangor have Elks lodges. I know Bangor has an Elks lodge and I’ve seen Paul Bunyan during the several years I lived there.
Here is another offbeat attraction I have seen and it might be a quirky slice of Americana. The Nevada shoe tree was in a turnout on U.S. Hwy. 50 about 60 miles east of Reno until vandals committed the dastardly act of taking a chainsaw to it on New Year’s Eve 2010.
According to the Nevada Tourism Commission, the tradition started during the 1950s or 60s following an argument between newlyweds. The woman tossed her husband’s shoes into the 70-foot-tall cottonwood tree and drove off into the sunset, leaving her new husband barefoot and alone in the Nevada desert on Hwy 50, which has come to be known as the “Loneliest Road in America.” Hence the “shoe tree” began with people tossing stinky sneakers and other discarded footwear into its branches to rot in the desert sun.
A memorial service was held for the murdered shoe tree with hundreds of people attending.
A new shoe tree soon sprouted near the site of the original and there are several copycats in other states.
The twice annual Silver State Classic Challenge open road race begins south of Ely, Nev. and ends near Las Vegas every May and September. It attracts gear heads and media from all over the world. It was just before the race in May, 2011, at a time that I was editor of The Ely Times, more than 250 miles from the shoe tree, that a race driver from Alberta, Canada, I was talking to invited me to join him and his family for dinner. His teenage daughter told me she had talked her parents into taking her to see the shoe tree on their way home. I broke her heart when I told her of its demise five months earlier.
So if size really does matter for small towns, does Wolf Point need a 26-foot-long fiberglass fish or a tree in Sherman Park blooming with stinky sneakers?
Written by John Plestina
A north side resident who the animal control officer cited after alleging that her cats were running loose complained to the Wolf Point City Council Monday, July 20.
Madonna Rowe, 56, was cited at her home on the 400 block of Eureka Street, Thursday, July 16, under a municipal ordinance for cats running at-large off her property. She must appear in Wolf Point City Court Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The Wolf Point animal control officer also told Rowe to remove one dog from her property. Three dogs and five cats are the limits the city allows.
“I was told they have an officer that is willing to testify against me for my cats going in and out of windows,” Rowe said and added that the windows cannot be seen from the street or alley.
“I have had one of these cats 13 years and I have allowed her to go in and out of windows,” she said.
Rowe, who said she has owned her home 21 years, called the demand that she get rid of one dog and the citation against her “petty.”
“Our animal control officer has been very diligent getting hundreds of dogs off the streets,” mayor Chris Dschaak said.
Rowe alluded to difficulty getting along with the neighbor who complained about her animals.
“My neighbor has chosen to call the cops on me because of my animals and my yard,” Rowe told the council.
She alleged that the same neighbor called the police on another occasion reporting a disturbance when she was having a barbecue in her front yard at about 6 p.m.
“Chief [Jeff Harada], correct me if I’m wrong; there are more important things than dogs and cats,” Dschaak said.
He said an item must be on the meeting agenda a minimum of 48 hours prior to a meeting for the council to act on it. Rowe brought her concerns to the council as a public comment.
Dschaak recommended that Rowe discuss the issue with the council’s police and animal control committee in August, prior to the next scheduled full council meeting on Monday, Aug. 17. That will be nine days before Rowe’s scheduled court appearance.