Avalanche levels Montana house; 2 missing, 1 saved

MISSOULA, MT - An avalanche roared into a residential neighborhood in the western Montana city of Missoula on Friday, destroying a house and leaving an elderly couple missing, but rescuers found an 8-year-old boy alive and rushed him to a hospital, police said.

The boy's condition wasn't immediately known, police Sgt. Travis Welsh said.

An elderly couple lived in the home, and their whereabouts were unknown, but police believe they were inside when the avalanche struck at about 4 p.m., Welsh said.

Their cars were in the driveway, and neighbors said the couple rarely went out.

Neighbors and the first responders 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 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 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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