When Kathryn and Scott Palmer planned their Montana summer vacation, they had no idea it would involve a hasty ride on a Chinook helicopter and a brief stay at a Montana Red Cross shelter.
The Virginia couple, who visits the state frequently, knew things were a bit out of ordinary when they arrived at their cabin in the Absarokee Mountains in southwestern Montana on Memorial Day weekend to find a foot of snow on the ground. Still, they weren’t overly concerned.
But then that snow began to melt, and the rains came. And came. And came some more, washing out the only road in or out. They and close to 50 others also staying in the area were suddenly stranded.
“We started talking about provisioning food,” she said.
Before those conversations got very far, the Montana National Guard arrived in Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, whisking the Palmers, their two children – George, 4, and Charlie, 2 – and the other campers out of the Montana wilderness.
A photo of Kathryn during their helicopter ride hugging her boys, who were wrapped in a National Guard jacket to stay warm, is making the rounds on social media.
“It was wild,” Kathryn said.
Once the Palmers were safely on the ground in Red Lodge, Red Cross volunteer Hank Nowak drove them to the Red Cross shelter at the county fairgrounds. There another Red Crosser, Barbara Miner, greeted, calmed and comforted them.
“She was an absolute angel,” Kathryn said.
Barbara got the two boys, who were understandably shaken by the whole experience, sandwiches.
“Then she came back with a mitt full of cookies and Gatorade and water,” Kathryn said. “I felt like I just blinked and everything was at our fingertips. We had all of our family’s basic needs met, and we had the opportunity to take showers or a nap and access to anything from food and hygiene products to baby supplies.
“For a very chaotic situation, everything was so well organized and ran so smoothly.”