Flooding woes widen in Montana

BILLINGS, Mont. - Flooding disrupted emergency phone service Monday across a broad swath of eastern Montana as areas of the state remained inundated and downstream communities prepared for the worst.

In southeast South Dakota, residents of the small town of Dakota Dunes were told to be ready to leave their homes by Thursday - and prepare to be gone awhile - as the Missouri River continued to rise. "Residents should plan to be away from their homes for as long as two months," said Eric Stasch, operations manager at Oahe Dam upstream in north-central South Dakota.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard emphasized that the town's 2,500 residents were advised only to be ready and had not been ordered to evacuate.

Heavy showers again pounded parts of Montana after more than a week of record-breaking rain. That added more water to flooded rivers and streams that had started to recede over the weekend. Snow was falling in the mountains, and warm weather forecast for later in the week was expected to trigger a new round of flooding as the spring melt begins.

Authorities said northwestern Montana and downstream states including the Dakotas were next in line for high-water problems. - AP

Pawlenty touts plan on Medicare

WAUKEE, Iowa - Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said during a Monday stop in Iowa that the key difference between his Medicare proposal and the one introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) was that his plan would change the way providers are paid.

The former Minnesota governor spoke to about 60 people during a campaign stop in Waukee. He said his plan would include "performance pay."

"We will begin to move providers from getting paid not just for the volume of procedures they crank out, but whether people are actually getting healthier and getting better," Pawlenty told the Des Moines Register.

He also told ABC's This Morning that he would support Ryan's proposal to privatize Medicare if his only choices were Ryan's plan or doing nothing. - AP

Fires ruin homes near Amarillo

AMARILLO, Texas - Two wildfires destroyed at least 12 homes on the outskirts of the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo.

The fires began burning early Sunday evening, and firefighters were still battling wildfires across Texas on Monday, said Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb. He said low humidity, temperatures in the 100s, and high winds created favorable conditions for fires.

About 2.8 million acres have burned in the state since November. - AP

Elsewhere:

Illinois lawmakers postponed action on a bill that would have forced teachers and state employees to pay as much as three times more for their retirement benefits, following opposition from public workers and their unions. The bill aimed to reduce the state's annual retirement costs and cut its unfunded pension liability of at least $80 billion.