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Avalanche levels Montana house; 2 saved, 1 missing

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POSTED February 28, 2014 8:00 p.m.

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An avalanche roared into a residential neighborhood in the western Montana city of Missoula on Friday, destroying a house and leaving an elderly woman missing, but rescuers found an elderly man and an 8-year-old boy alive, police said.

The survivors were rushed to a hospital, police Sgt. Travis Welsh said. Their conditions weren’t immediately known, but the man was talking with rescuers, Welsh said.

The man and woman, whose relationship wasn’t immediately known, lived in the house destroyed by the avalanche that struck at about 4 p.m. Police weren’t sure if the boy lived there.

No names have been released.

Neighbors and the first responders to reach the scene dug frantically through the snow and debris, the Missoulian reported. Firefighters with avalanche probes — long poles used to penetrate the snow to find victims — then took over, and the boy was pulled from the snow at about 5:15 p.m.

The man’s rescue was reported at about 7 p.m.

The neighborhood is in northeastern Missoula at the foot of Mount Jumbo. A natural gas leak was also reported in the area, and utility crews were summoned.

Cheryl McMillan, who lives near the house that was destroyed, told the Missoulian she heard a roar, but didn’t know what it was at first.

“Then, when we looked again, we saw that their whole house was kind of no longer there, at least the top floor,” she said.

McMillan said she has lived in the neighborhood for 31 years and has never seen an avalanche before.

An avalanche team was en route to the area to assess the danger of another slide, Welsh said.

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