HELENA, Mont. — Some Montana residents were cleaning up Monday after a series of thunderstorms brought large hail, heavy rain and strong winds that downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings and vehicles.
The National Weather Service reported the worst damage Sunday in Shepherd, Worden and Huntley — north of Billings — where hail as large as 2 inches in diameter fell, causing damage to homes, outbuildings, vehicles and windows.
A roof was torn off a house and a barn was destroyed in Worden, the Billings Gazette reported. In Ballantine, hail tore up siding on a house and knocked a tree over on another.
Sugar beet crops were sitting in water in Yellowstone County while leaves were torn from corn stalks near Ballantine, the Gazette reported.
Golf ball-sized hail fell Sunday in downtown Billings, breaking windows and damaging lightbulbs and neon lighting at the Babcock Theater.
Lightning is believed to have caused a fire in the attic of a Great Falls residence Sunday morning at a time the National Weather Service recorded 55 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within five minutes.
“It was a lot more lightning with this one than we normally see, especially with cloud-to-ground strikes,” said meteorologist Ray Greeley. The weather service also recorded 1,000 cloud-to-cloud strikes during the same five-minute period, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
Helena reported 0.99 inches of rain Sunday, a record for the date.
On Saturday, Townsend residents reported golf ball-sized hail.
“There’s people with gutters punctured through from the big hail, gardens annihilated — it’s pretty bad,” said Cathlene Millay, who told KTVH-TV she’s assessing damage to the paint on her house.
On Saturday evening, strong winds caused five sailboats on Flathead Lake to crash into rocks near Polson Bay. Lake County authorities rescued six people and a dog. Two of the boats were banked and flipped over into the trees, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale urged residents to document property damage before beginning any cleanup or repairs, take steps to prevent further damage, and then contact their insurer to get the claims process started.
He recommended getting multiple bids for repair work and checking documentation of contractors.
The rain helped crews make progress on fires in western Montana. A blaze north of Helena was 100 percent contained, while a fire near Lincoln was hit with about an inch of rain and was 50 percent contained.
Crews created a fire line around 20 percent of a fire north of Missoula after about a half-inch of rain fell over the weekend. Firefighters were removed from the lines by mid-afternoon Sunday due to the incoming storms.