GARDINER, Mont. – Yellowstone National Park officials assessed the damage Tuesday as the park remained closed until at least Wednesday amid dangerous flooding and rockfalls that eroded roads, wrecked bridges and prompted evacuations this week.
With flood levels “beyond record levels” and rain expected in the coming days, all five entrances to the park have been closed, officials said Monday.
The park has seen multiple road and bridge failures, power outages, and landslides, prompting evacuations that began in the northern area of the park.
“I’ve never seen this, not in my life,” said Austin King, a firefighter and EMT in Gardiner, a town just outside Yellowstone’s busy north entrance.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, but the floods swept away numerous homes, bridges and other structures, with the northern part of the park suffering the worst damage.
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Parker Manning, who is visiting from Terre Haute, Indiana, watched the flooding from a cabin in Gardiner. He said that he saw trees and an almost intact house floating in the torrential waters.
The Yellowstone River reached heights of nearly 14 feet on Monday, far higher than the previous record of 11.5 feet set more than a century ago, according to the National Weather Service.
Yellowstone communities left stranded, without power
The flooding left small Yellowstone Inlet communities in southern Montana isolated and without power, prompting evacuations by boat and helicopter.
With road access cut off to Gardiner, the town of about 900 people became virtually an island, where the only way in or out was by air. A 10-person bunker was among the buildings that slid from the riverbank into the water. Only part of the house’s foundation remained Tuesday.
“The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and state of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas,” Yellowstone officials said Monday.
The flooding also isolated Cooke City and prompted evacuations in Livingston. When the Stillwater River in south-central Montana flooded, 68 people were stranded in a campground while crews rescued campers on rafts.
Officials in Park County, which encompasses these cities, issued shelter-in-place orders Monday, warning that flooding had made drinking water unsafe in many communities. residents brought home bottled water from stores and worried about possible food shortages. The county said air and water rescues were underway amid Monday’s evacuations.
“Extensive flooding throughout Park County has washed out bridges, roads and left communities and homes isolated,” Park County said in a statement.
In the south-central Montana town of Joliet, Kristan Apodaca wept as she watched floodwaters engulf her grandmother’s log cabin and the park where her husband proposed.
“I’m sixth generation,” he told the Billings Gazette. “This is our house.”
King, the EMT at Gardiner, said the flooding was “harmful to a lot of people.”
“Some have lost their homes; others can’t go to work,” Gardiner said. “People are already worried about food shortages.”
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When will Yellowstone reopen?
Yellowstone officials barred visitors from entering the park at any of its five entrances through at least Wednesday.
Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said reduced rainfall and cooler temperatures, which could lead to less snow melt, may lessen flooding.
Still, “these are floods that we’ve never seen before in our lifetimes,” Mottice said.
Why is Yellowstone flooding?
Record rainfall combined with rapidly melting snowpack caused the deluge of flooding this week and scientists have pointed to climate change as the culprit behind more intense and frequent weather events.
The flooding came as the summer tourist season was ramping up in June, one of the park’s busiest months.
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What state is Yellowstone National Park in?
The world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is a nearly 3,500-square-mile wilderness park on a volcanic point. It is primarily in Wyoming, but also extends into Montana and Idaho.
The park allows visitors to “see wildlife in an intact ecosystem, explore geothermal areas that contain about half of the world’s active geysers, and see geological wonders like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River,” according to the Yellowstone website.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact News Now reporter Christine Fernando at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.
Hannah Phillips of The Palm Beach Post reported from Gardiner, Montana.
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