Yellowstone National Park closed all entrances indefinitely and began evacuating some visitors Monday after heavy rains triggered flooding and rock slides that swept away roads and at least one bridge.
Visitors in the northern part of the park were being evacuated due to “extremely dangerous conditions” following “unprecedented” rainfall, according to a news release.
“Effective immediately, there will be no incoming visitor traffic at any of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 15, at a minimum,” the statement said.
There was also a power outage throughout the park, as well as in the nearby town of Gardiner, Montana.
More visitor evacuations were planned for the day, park superintendent Cam Sholly said in the statement.
“Due to predictions of higher flood levels in areas of the southern loop of the park, in addition to concerns with water and wastewater systems, we will begin moving southern loop visitors out of the park later today in coordination with our business in the park partners,” he said.
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Sholly added, “We won’t know when the park will reopen until the floodwaters recede and we can assess the damage throughout the park. The North Loop will likely be closed for a considerable time.”
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning Monday for Yellowstone, where rain is forecast to fall overnight before turning to snow overnight.
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The rains came just as the summer tourist season was ramping up. June, at the start of an annual wave of more than 3 million visitors that doesn’t subside until fall, is one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.
Yellowstone received 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday, Sunday and through Monday. The Beartooth Mountains northeast of Yellowstone got up to 4 inches, according to the NWS.
“It’s a lot of rain, but the flooding wouldn’t have been like that if there wasn’t so much snow,” said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana. “This is a flood that we have never seen before in our lives.”
Contributing: The Associated Press