Yellowstone National Park flooding sweeps away bridge, washes out roads

HELENA, Montana – A torrent of rain combined with rapidly melting snow caused flooding that forced the evacuation of parts of Yellowstone National Park, cutting off electricity and forcing park officials to close all entrances indefinitely, as well as tourist the season was coming up.

While many homes and other structures were destroyed, there are no immediate reports of injuries. Yellowstone officials said they were assessing the damage from the storms, which swept away bridges, caused mud landslides and left small towns isolated, forcing evacuations by boats and helicopters.

It is not clear how many visitors have been barred or forced to leave the park and how many people living outside the park have been rescued and evacuated.

Some of the worst damage occurred in the northern part of the park and in the Yellowstone Gate communities in southern Montana. Photographs by the North Yellowstone National Park Service showed a landslide of mud, bridges and roads flooded by the flood waters of the Gardner and Lamar rivers.

The floods cut off road access to Gardiner, Montana, a city of about 900 people near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Gardner rivers, just outside the bustling Yellowstone North Entrance. The city of Cooke was also isolated by floods and evacuations were also issued to residents in Livingston.

Officials in Park County, which includes those cities, said on Facebook Monday night that widespread flooding across the county had made drinking water unsafe in many areas. Evacuations and rescues continue and officials have urged people in safety to stay overnight.

The Montana National Guard announced Monday that it has sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help evacuate.

Corey Motis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said rain was not expected immediately and lower temperatures would reduce snowmelt in the coming days.

“It’s a flood we’ve never seen in our lives,” Mottice said.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and frequent extreme events such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, although individual weather events usually cannot be directly linked to climate change without extensive study.

The Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs reached 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) on Monday, higher than the previous record of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) set in 1918, according to the National Weather Service.

In a cabin in Gardiner, Parker Manning saw water rising up close and the river bank overflowing into the raging Yellowstone River just outside his door.

“We began to see whole trees floating in the river, debris,” Manning, who hails from Terra Haute, Indiana, told the Associated Press. “I saw a crazy lonely kayak coming down, which was a bit crazy.”

On Monday night, Manning watched the rushing waters flood the opposite bank of the river, causing a house to fall into the Yellowstone River and floating mostly intact.

Floodwaters flooded a road in Red Lodge, a city of 2,100 Montana residents that is a popular jump point for a scenic, winding trail in high Yellowstone County. Twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) northeast of the Joliet, Kristan Apodaca wiped away her tears as she stood across a washed-out bridge, the Billings Gazette reported.

The wooden hut belonging to her grandmother, who died in March, flooded, as did the park where Apodaca’s husband proposed.

“I’m sixth generation. This is our home,” he said. “This bridge I literally drove yesterday. My mom drove it at 3 in the morning before it was flushed.”

On Monday, Yellowstone officials evacuated the north part of the park, where roads may remain impassable for a long time, Park Superintendent Cam Soly said in a statement.

However, the flood also affected the rest of the park, with park officials warning of even greater flooding and possible problems with water supply and sewerage systems in developed areas.

The rains hit during the high tourist season: June, at the start of an annual wave of more than 3 million visitors that does not subside until the fall, is one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.

Yellowstone received 2.5 inches (6 cm) of rain on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The Beartooth Mountains northeast of Yellowstone were 4 inches (10 cm) high, according to the National Weather Service.

In south-central Montana, floods on the Stillwater River trapped 68 people in a campsite. Stillwater County emergency services and crews with Stillwater Mine rescued people Monday from Woodbine Campground with rafts. Some roads in the area are closed due to floods and residents have been evacuated.

“We will assess the loss of homes and structures when the waters recede,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The floods occurred while other parts of the US burned in hot and dry weather. More than 100 million Americans have been warned to stay indoors as a heat wave sweeps across states stretching from parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and east to the Carolina.

Elsewhere in the West, crews from California to New Mexico are battling wildfires in hot, dry, and stormy weather.

Associated Press writers Thomas Peipert in Denver, Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Yellowstone National Park flooding sweeps away bridge, washes out roads Source link Yellowstone National Park flooding sweeps away bridge, washes out roads

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