RED LODGE — The Yodeler Motel is an icon in Red Lodge. The building has been standing for over 100 years, and it’s been a motel for almost 60, the longest continuously running motel in the city - but it likely will never be the same.
Last week’s flooding in Red Lodge destroyed all 10 bottom floor units, some of which were occupied at the time.
"We weren’t notified at all," said owner Tulsa Dean on Wednesday.
Dean and her husband only found out the motel was flooding when a guest called their emergency line.
"He called me at 5:30 a.m. letting me know there was three inches of water in his room," she said. "By the time I got down here at 7:15 a.m. Monday, the water was three feet rolling down Main Street."
City officials said they sent out a Code Red Alert to local cell phones that had signed up for the service and then started notifying people in person.
"We had folks going door-to-door," said Red Lodge Fire Chief Tom Kuntz. "And we built that area bigger and bigger. It's challenging to get everyone."
Dean is frustrated that the motel is one they missed, but she’s devastated at what the damage now means for half of her beloved Yodeler.
"(The bottom floor rooms) are completely destroyed," she said. "There would be no reason to rebuild them because we don’t have any income, insurance won’t cover it because it's a flood, and we just simply don’t have the money."
Dean took MTN News inside the ground floor units, which are now completely gutted after more than 100 people volunteered their time to help over the last week. It’s the reason the Deans moved to Carbon County in the first place.
"We thought it was the coolest town in Montana," she said. "The gratitude and giving of our community, people just saying, ‘I want to help you,’ that’s been huge."
The saddest sight of all for Dean was walking into the apartment on the bottom floor's north end. She and husband Mac lived there for four years early in their ownership, which now spans 13 years. The apartment is also a complete loss, but then came a ray of sunshine when they were demoing the walls: a mural that spans three walls inside one of the apartment bedrooms.
"I’m guessing this is from the mining days," Dean said.
Before it became a motel, the building - built in 1909 - was used as apartments for workers at the Rocky Fork Mine. Dean believes the mural, which shows four people in various skiing poses, could be 75 years old or more.
"Some pretty cool history," she said.
Something the Yodeler will always be a part of, no matter what comes next.
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