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Red Lodge cook recounts harrowing flood escape through basement window

Red Lodge flood escape window
Posted at 5:40 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 19:40:00-04

RED LODGE — Normally, finding your car in a massive sink hole would be the worst part of your day, but for Taylor Monfort-Eaton Monday, it was a thrill just to be alive after almost getting trapped in his Red Lodge basement apartment as flood waters rushed in.

"I made my way out into the living room, and that’s when I realized how bad the situation was," Monfort-Eaton said Friday.

Streets completely flooded by Rock Creek wasn't what Monfort-Eaton expected when he left New York for a job at Prerogative Kitchen, one of Red Lodge’s most popular spots. The basement apartment less than three blocks away seemed perfect for his first time living alone, until he woke up around 4:30 a.m. Monday.

Red Lodge house
Taylor Monfort-Eaton moved into the basement apartment at 218 Platt Ave. S in Red Lodge in May 2022, the first time he'd ever visited Montana.

"I woke up, put my feet down and the water was up to my calves," he said.

He got into the living room and saw some water coming in from the hallway. But once he opened that door, he ran into an avalanche.

"I tried to get through the front door, but the water was coming through so hard, I couldn’t unlatch the lock," he said, "and that was the one moment where I lost my absolute mind. 'Oh my god, I'm dead. This is over.' And then all of a sudden it was a weird calm, and I realized, 'I'm not going to die today.'"

Monfort-Eaton went back into his apartment and looked to his living room egress window.

"One of the windows had been cracked and water was starting to come through it," he said. "I dug out a shoe from underneath the water, put it on, gave it 3-4 solid kicks and water started pouring in.”

Once he kicked the screen away, he removed the glass-filled shoe, and climbed out of a space barely big enough to fit through to safety.

Red Lodge sink hole
Rock Creek flood waters opened a large sink hole in front of 218 Platt Ave. S. in Red Lodge that swallowed Taylor Monfort-Eaton's car.

His upstairs neighbors cleaned up the cuts on his arms and got him up to the fairgrounds for some dry clothes. Once the sun came up, he saw what had happened to his car - the cherry on top.

In the four days since, he’s found some things to smile about.

"The shoe ended up in my kitchen cabinet," he laughed. "The water carried it there, and that's where we found it. I have not moved it because I think it’s so funny."

Taylor Monfort-Eaton shoe
Taylor Monfort-Eaton points to the shoe he used to kick out a basement egress window that flood waters deposited in a kitchen cabinet.

But his biggest win has come from the people around him, helping at every step of the way.

"These people have given me everything over the last 48 hours. I have a place to stay. I have clothes. I have food," he said. "What kind of person are you if you receive all that and you don’t feel the drive to give back?”

You won’t find any of those people in his town right now.