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Road closed between Great Falls and Fort Benton

Posted at 11:57 AM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 18:50:51-05

(UPDATE, 4:47 pm) MDT said in an email to KRTV: "Good news, we are in the process of reopening US 87 north of Great Falls. The conditions are improving. We will have flaggers remain in the area to slow traffic through the low visibility area until conditions improve. Travelers should still use caution as there are still some areas of blowing dust causing low visibility."

(UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.) The Montana Department of Transportation says that U.S. Highway 87 remains closed between Great Falls and Fort Benton.

Harry Barnett of MDT says that there are still reports of near-zero visibility in some areas along the road. He added, "We are hopeful that the winds will decrease late this afternoon or early evening and that we will be able to reopen it for the night."

We will update you as we get more information.

(UPDATE, 11:53 a.m.) The Montana Department of Transportation has closed US Highway 87 between Great Falls and Fort Benton.

The closure, announced at about 11:40 a.m. on Monday, is due to zero visibility in some areas caused by blowing dust, according to the agency.

Harry Barnett of the MDT says that crews are getting pulled back to flag at Fort Benton and on top of the hill on the north end of Great Falls. They will work to get traffic turned around, and may try to move semi trucks through one at a time if there are times that the wind will allow them to safely do so. They will keep the road closed until visibility improves.

Barnett says that for now, drivers can go through Fort Benton and Highwood on S-228 to get in and out of Great Falls, but cautions that there is also reduced visibility due to blowing dust along US Highway 89 east of Great Falls, notably between mile marker 3 to mile marker 7. Drivers should use caution and be aware of areas of reduced visibility, reduce speeds, and turn on headlights.

The City of Great Falls announced that due to the road closure, sanitation trucks are unable to take loads to the High Plains Landfill north of Great Falls. As a result, there may be a half-day delay in sanitation pick up this week. The announcement also said: "We are sorry for the inconvenience. With the low visibility due to blowing dust, we must keep our Sanitation drivers safe."

We will update you as we get more information.

(1st REPORT, 11:01 a.m.) Emergency crews are responding to a crash on US Highway 87 north of Great Falls.

The crash was reported at about 10:30 a.m. near mile marker 14, just south of the county line.

Initial reports indicate that at least one person may have sustained injuries.

The Montana Department of Transportation reports that a contributing factor is the gusty winds that are blowing lots of dust across the road, limiting visibility.

Both lanes of traffic are closed at this time as emergency crews work to clear the scene.

Responding agencies include the Montana Highway Patrol, Black Eagle Volunteer Fire Department, and Montana Department of Transportation.

The MDT said at about 9 a.m. that message boards had been placed along the highway to warn people about the blowing dirt, urging drivers to reduce speed and use caution.

In addition, the MDT says that blowing dirt is also causing poor visibility on US Highway 89 between Great Falls and Belt.

We will update you if we get more information.