GARDINER, Mont. – Yellowstone National Park officials assessed widespread damage on Tuesday as the park remained closed amid dangerous flooding, landslides and landslides who have eroded roads, destroyed bridges and forced evacuations this week.
The water began to slowly recede on Tuesday, but record flooding left all five entrances to the park closed until at least Wednesday, officials said.
The park has experienced 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 lifetime,” said Austin King, a firefighter and EMT in Gardiner, a town just outside Yellowstone’s busy north entrance.
No injuries were immediately reported, but the floodwaters washed away a number of homes, bridges and other structures. The northern part of the park suffered the worst damage.
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Parker Manning, who is from Terre Haute, Indiana, watched the flooding from a cabin in Gardiner. He said he saw trees and a mostly intact house floating in rough waters.
The Yellowstone River hit highs of nearly 14 feet on Monday, much higher than the record 11.5 feet set more than a century ago, according to the National Weather Service.
Yellowstone communities are stuck, without power
Flooding has left the small gateway communities of Yellowstone in southern Montana isolated and without power, prompting evacuations by boat and helicopter.
With road access cut off, the only way to get in or out of Gardiner, a town of about 900 people, was by plane.
“We’re on an island, so to speak,” said Marshall Haley, a campground manager near Gardiner. “Most of the motels were full, and the store will soon run out of food, probably because no truck can get down here.”
A bunker for 10 people was among the buildings that slid from the shore into the water. Only part of the house’s foundation remained as of Tuesday.
“The community of Gardiner is currently isolated and we are working with the county and the state of Montana to provide the necessary support for residents, who are currently without water or power in some areas,” Yellowstone officials said Monday.
Floodwaters also cut off Cooke City and Silvergate, which is east of the park, and led to evacuations in Livingston. As the Stillwater River in south-central Montana flooded, 68 people became stranded in a campground as crews rescued campers by raft.
Officials in Park County, which encompasses those towns, issued shelter-in-place orders on Monday and warned that flooding had made drinking water unsafe in many communities. Residents carried bottled water home from stores and worried about a possible food shortage. The county said sea and air rescues were underway amid evacuations on Monday.
“Extensive flooding throughout Park County has washed away 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 he watched floodwaters invade his grandmother’s log cabin and the park where her husband proposed.
“I’m sixth generation,” she told the Billings Gazette. “It’s our home.”
King, Gardiner’s EMT, said the flooding was “damaging for a lot of people”.
“Some have lost their homes, others can’t go to work,” King said. “People are already worried about food shortages.”
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When will Yellowstone reopen?
Yellowstone officials have banned visitors from entering the park through any of its five entrances until at least Wednesday.
Cory Mottice, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Billings, Montana, said reduced rainfall and cooler temperatures, which could lead to less snowmelt, could reduce flooding.
Still, “this is a flood we’ve never seen in our lifetimes before,” Mottice said.
Why is Yellowstone flooded?
Record rainfall combined with a rapidly melting snowpack caused the deluge of flooding this week. Scientists have pointed to climate change as the culprit behind more intense and frequent weather events.
The flooding comes as the summer tourist season intensifies 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 spans nearly 3,500 square miles atop a volcanic hotspot. The park is located primarily in Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho.
The park allows visitors “to view 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.
Contribute: 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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