Tester calls on colleagues to ‘stand with’ Billings as rebuilding begins
Senator cites tornado emergency response as example for nation
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today urged his colleagues to “stand with” Montana while recovery efforts are underway following Sunday’s tornado strike in Billings and recent flooding across Montana.
“This week, people across the country opened up their newspapers and turned on their TVs to see the incredible pictures from Billings,” Tester said on the Senate floor, after telling other Senators about Sunday’s unusual tornado that destroyed several Billings businesses and the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark—one of Montana’s most familiar buildings.
Tester pledged to work to make sure federal agencies were on the ground to support the recovery effort. Since Sunday, Tester has been in close touch with community leaders in Billings and Yellowstone County to discuss rebuilding efforts.
Sharing photographs of the damage to MetraPark, Tester today praised emergency responders who arrived on scene minutes after the tornado touched down.
“While we stand together in support of the folks who lost their businesses and their property Sunday, we are grateful that nobody died,” Tester said. “Nobody lost their homes. I attribute that to a little bit of luck. And to a lot of quick action and smart decisions by emergency responders in Billings and Yellowstone County.”
Tester also spoke about the widespread flooding on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and in the Bear Paw Mountains.
“And of course, Montana is a state where agriculture is not just the top industry – it’s the livelihood of thousands of families,” Tester said. “Weather like this takes a toll on crops – on soil – and on irrigation. Over the past week, we’ve seen unusual weather across the Big Sky State.”
Video of Tester’s floor speech is available HERE. His remarks, prepared for delivery, appear below.
*** FLOOR REMARKS***
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
June 22, 2010
Mr./Madame President, I rise today to share an incredible story about a community, working together, in the aftermath of a powerful storm in Billings, Montana.
The storm, on Father’s Day, spawned at least one tornado that touched down in the Billings Heights, blowing apart several businesses – and one of the city’s most familiar buildings.
This is what the inside of Rimrock Auto Arena looks like today.
You can see the tornado ripped the roof right off. Thousands and thousands of people have memories from inside this building – from concerts to sporting events to high school graduations.
And take a look at this picture. It was taken by Larry Mayer – a photographer for the Billings Gazette.
Minutes after the tornado tore through, emergency responders arrived on scene to keep people away from debris in the streets.
The wind twisted guard-rails around light poles. Rain turned streets into rivers. Golf ball sized hail came crashing down.
Mr./Madame President, in our part of the country, we’re used to extreme weather: sub-zero cold – drought – snow – and severe thunderstorms. But a tornado tearing through the middle of Montana’s biggest city? It’s pretty darn unusual.
And through it all, only one minor injury was reported – due to hail.
While we stand together in support of the folks who lost their businesses and their property Sunday, we are grateful that nobody died. Nobody lost their homes.
I attribute that to a little bit of luck. And to a lot of quick action and smart decisions by emergency responders in Billings and Yellowstone County.
Immediately after the clouds lifted, officers kept onlookers out of harm’s way. More than a dozen National Guardsmen immediately secured the area, answering a late-night call on Father’s Day.
News reporters went to work sharing the story. And elected leaders – from councilmen to commissioners –buckled down to hammer out the next steps.
This week, people across the country opened up their newspapers and turned on their TVs to see the incredible pictures from Billings, Montana. They saw what happens when a community works together in the aftermath of a storm like this.
Everyone lived to share the story.
And the community grew stronger because of it.
Mr./Madame President, it’s not just Billings that felt the force of wild weather this weekend.
Further north, the community of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation is still trying to tally up the damage after a powerful rainstorm last Friday. In the nearby Bear Paw Mountains, there’s word that water wiped out entire roads. Dozens of families in the area were forced out of their homes.
Last week – a microburst destroyed a home near Froid, Montana. Ramona Ryder, the woman who lived there, died in that storm, Mr./Madame President.
And of course, Montana is a state where agriculture is not just the top industry – it’s the livelihood of thousands of families.
Weather like this takes a toll on crops – on soil – and on irrigation. Over the past week, we’ve seen unusual weather across the Big Sky State.
And we can expect more of it. From farmers to tribal communities, to folks who live in Montana’s biggest cities, it impacts everyone.
Now we begin the process of rebuilding the businesses and familiar buildings destroyed by these storms.
Mr./Madame President, I ask you and all of our colleagues to stand with me to offer any support we can to the Billings and Rocky Boy’s communities – and especially to the folks who have to start from scratch.
Because it takes working together to rebuild—and to become only stronger.
I yield the floor.