Yellowstone National Closed Due to Rapidly Rising Floodwaters

Posted: June 15, 2022 3:42 pm

Handout/Getty Images News via Getty Images

If you have a trip planned to Yellowstone National Park in the near future, you might want to read this. The oldest national park in the U.S. is temporarily closed as immense flooding in the region has washed out roads and created dangerous conditions. Here is the latest on the park closure and when officials think it may open.

Yellowstone National Park Closed During 150th Anniversary Year

Just as the park was gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary, the rains started to fall and the snow started to melt. It had been an unusually wet spring for this corner of the country, however, the precipitation in recent days took this to another level. In addition to washing out roads due to flooding, the unprecedented rainfall also triggered rockslides, bridge failures, and mudslides.

Park officials raced to evacuate thousands of visitors already inside the park on Monday, starting with the most vulnerable northern loop before moving to the southern portions. All entrances to the park were shuttered, marking the first time in history that this historic destination was closed because of flooding.

In the latest update to the media, Yellowstone Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said that the majority of visitors have been evacuated with just a few backpackers still on the premises. No injuries have been blamed on the severe weather. The National Park Service (NPS) said that all five entrances will be closed through at least Wednesday with some of the park not expected to open in the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately for summer travelers, park officials have said that some of the major roads through Yellowstone may be impassable for the entirety of the busy season ahead. Over one million visitors are expected to spend time in the park this summer.

Sholly said that the five-mile road connecting Gardiner and Cooke City in Montana will likely not open during the upcoming season. With no damage estimates yet available, Sholly was certain that it will be a challenging rebuilding effort.

Rescue and Evacuation Efforts Still Underway

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The Montana National Guard (MTNG) was called in to evacuate 12 people stranded because of the flooding. Two of the agency’s helicopters were used in the search and rescue efforts. The ongoing crisis prompted Montana Governor Greg Gianforte to declare a statewide disaster on Tuesday afternoon. Gianforte warned that the rapid snowmelt will exacerbate the flooding, leaving much of the state without power and water.

The Yellowstone River is the epicenter of the flooding. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Billings, the river hit 10.9 feet at its highest measurement in Livingston, Montana. This level broke the previous record of 10.7 feet from 1997. Shocking video of a large home washing off of a riverbank of the Yellowstone River captured the dire situation.

The town of Gardiner has been hit particularly hard. The community is now largely isolated because of all of the road closures. In addition, residents of this town are without water and power in many areas.

The loss of the Carbella Bridge off of U.S. Highway 89 has complicated the delivery of essentials to stranded residents. Floodwaters washed the bridge away, sending it downstream and sinking into the riverbed.

What Triggered the Flooding?

Yellowstone National Park bore the brunt of heavy rainfall in this corner of Wyoming and Montana. The NWS Yellowstone National Park station recorded 1.39 inches of rain in just 24 hours. The area of Silver Gate, Montana within the park’s boundaries recorded 2.85 inches of rain early Monday morning.

In addition to the flooding of the Yellowstone River, the Lamar River near Tower Falls also soared 4.69 feet above its previous record. The heaviest rains fell on Sunday evening shortly after officials in Teton County, Wyoming urged residents to seek shelter. The flooding has also been exacerbated by the rapid snowmelt. A late season snowfall followed by rising temperatures added more water to the area’s waterways.

The area of Paradise Valley, Montana has been greatly impacted by the floodwaters. Residents were told to evacuate or shelter in place on Monday evening as conditions worsened.

Authorities are also warning locales that displaced wildlife could find their way to residential areas. Bears and deer have already been reported in areas outside of the park boundaries.

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