Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR


A washed out bridge pictured along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mt.

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Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

A washed out bridge pictured along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mt.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Yellowstone National Park officials now say some entrances could reopen “as soon as this weekend” after historic flooding hit Monday.

But, they say, “it is likely that sections of road in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season due to time needed for repairs.”

The Yellowstone North Driving Loop includes the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, popular wildlife viewing areas in the Lamar Valley, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge and park headquarters.

The southern route loop, which suffered less damage, accesses Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone Lake, and a major visitor center. But, says park superintendent Cam Sholly, “half the park can’t support all the visits, so we’re exploring a range of options.”

These possibly include a ticketed entry or reservation system. About 4 million people a year visit Yellowstone National Park.

Floodwaters around the park peaked late Monday evening. Flood warnings or watches remain in effect for several counties downstream of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries.

Just outside the park’s north gate, the community of Gardiner saw limited road access restored yesterday after being cut off for about 24 hours after the roads were washed out on Monday. Yellowstone Public Radio reports that the main highway out of town is now only open to incoming residents and essential goods, as well as outgoing visitors.

Sholly advised people to get out quickly. “Don’t wait to see if another event happens,” he said on Tuesday. “I’d take advantage of getting out of here while you can.”

Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Flood damage is seen along a street Tuesday, June 14, 2022 in Red Lodge, Mt.

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Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Flood damage is seen along a street Tuesday, June 14, 2022 in Red Lodge, Mt.

Matthew Brown/AP

Meanwhile, drinking water in Gardiner remains unsafe, forcing local businesses to adapt.

Stacey Joy, owner of a lodge and cafe in Gardiner, told Olivia Weitz of YPR that they were serving a limited menu and doing their best in the midst of a continuous boil order.

“We usually have a queue for coffee and espresso, which we can’t do at the moment,” she said. “The water temperature is not at a long enough temperature to make this water safe.”

She said she was “can’t wait to see this [the park’s] plans are “to reopen the North Highway Loop and North Entrance. It is the second most popular park and the engine of Gardiner’s economy.

Joy marveled, “just the devastation of roads and bridges, who knows if the North Entrance will be a viable option for tourism this year.”

About 50 miles downstream, where the Yellowstone River passes through the town of Livingston, Montana, damage is still being investigated.

“Everything is covered in a layer of mud,” Montana Public Radio’s Nick Mott reported as he helped a friend and her neighbors in Livingston clean up after water broke through a layer of sandbags. “I’m just standing in mud and mud right now.”

Flood damage is “relatively isolated from areas near the river,” Mott said. “But it’s not an insignificant amount of space in Livingston – the city is oriented around the river.”

The city’s only hospital reopened Wednesday morning after being evacuated on Tuesday. A message on the hospital’s website says floodwaters have not reached the building, although the system’s phone lines remain down.

Further downstream, the sewage treatment plant in Montana’s largest city, Billings, was knocked out of service by floodwaters Tuesday night. The town of 117,000 has “between a day and a day and a half of water supply for Billings”.

Officials expect water levels to peak today, they need them to drop about a foot for the plant to start operating again, but “the plant still has the task of clean the filters to work properly”. Residents are urged to conserve water while waiting.

Only one gateway city to the park remains cut off due to washed out roads – this is Cook City at the northeast entrance to Yellowstone.

“We cannot provide law enforcement services at this time, public health services,” Park County, Montana commissioner Bill Berg told Jackson Hole Community Radio on Tuesday. “We can’t go out to pick up trash. Some of these things are pretty basic.”

Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Residents of Red Lodge, Montana inspect damage to a home that was flooded after torrential rains battered the Yellowstone area on Tuesday.

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Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Residents of Red Lodge, Montana inspect damage to a home that was flooded after torrential rains battered the Yellowstone area on Tuesday.

Matthew Brown/AP

At the foot of the mountains in which Cook City sits is the town of Red Lodge, much of which has been flooded and remains cut off from drinking water or under a boil order.

“What we’re trying to focus on right now is bridge travel routes and access. That’s our primary concern,” Carbon County Incident Commander Tom Kuntz said. “Our number two, [and] there is also water and sewage up there.”

Kuntz was briefing Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristan Juras yesterday. Governor Greg Gianforte is currently out of the country and is being criticized for not rushing home as the state grapples with historic flooding. His office now says he’s coming back “as soon as possible”.

Yellowstone Public Radio reports that Kuntz said the river level continues to rise downstream from Red Lodge to Bridger and Fromberg. He added that the melting snow remaining on the mountains combined with warm weather and more rain could lead to another flood. He said both conditions are scheduled for Saturday, but perhaps to a lesser extent.

Since June 13, Montana National Guard helicopters have rescued 87 people and flown more than 41 hours in support of search and rescue operations in south-central Montana.

Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Musician Katie Wise of CO, left East Rosebud by the MT National Guard on Tuesday.

Kayla Desroches / Yellowstone Public Radio


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Reopening of Yellowstone National Park delayed after historic flooding: NPR

Musician Katie Wise of CO, left East Rosebud by the MT National Guard on Tuesday.

Kayla Desroches / Yellowstone Public Radio

Among them is Katie Wise, a musician visiting from Colorado, who was rescued from East Rosebud and brought to an evacuation center at Red Lodge.

“I’m pretty adrenalized right now. My heart is racing,” she said. “The most stressful part was that we didn’t know the helicopters were coming, so we were just talking about how we were going to do all the water and ration the food, and we were going to do a food inventory and get together as community.

Across Montana, at least a dozen counties are under flood warnings or watches today and tomorrow, mostly along the Yellowstone River. But far to the north, the flood warning for areas around Glacier National Park is in effect “until further notice.”


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