Amy by Beth Hanson and Matthew Brown
Helena, Mont. ( Associated Press) – Communities bordering Yellowstone National Park were isolated and tourists trapped in record flood waters Tuesday, knocking down roads and bridges in Montana and Wyoming and closing all entrances to the park Compelled to.
The floods followed a torrent of rain combined with rapidly melting snowpack and as the summer tourist season progressed.
While many homes and other structures were destroyed, there were no immediate reports of injuries. Yellowstone officials said they were assessing the damage caused by the storm, which washed away bridges, caused landslides and evacuated people by boat and helicopter.
It is not clear how many visitors are trapped 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 the entrance communities of Yellowstone in southern Montana. Photos from the National Park Service of North Yellowstone show a mudslide, washed-out bridges and roads churning out floodwaters from the Gardner and Lamar Rivers.
The flood cut off road access to Gardiner, Montana, a city of about 900 people near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Gardner Rivers, just outside Yellowstone’s busy northern entrance. Cook City was also gutted by floodwaters and evacuations were issued for residents in Livingston.
Officials in Park County, which includes those cities, said on Facebook Monday evening that widespread flooding across the county has made drinking water unsafe in many areas. Evacuation and rescue operations were on and officials urged the people living at the safe place to stay overnight.
The Montana National Guard said on Monday it sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help with the evacuation.
Cory Motis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said rain is not in the immediate forecast, and cooler temperatures will reduce snowfall in the coming days.
“This is a flood we’ve never seen before in our lifetime,” Motis said.
Scientists say that climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods and wildfires, although without extensive study usually single weather events cannot be directly linked to climate change. .
According to the National Weather Service, the Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs stood at 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) on Monday, higher than the previous record of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) set in 1918.
In one of the Gardiner cabins, Parker Manning had a view of the rising water and riverbank in the floodwaters of the Yellowstone River just outside his door.
“We started to see the debris, with whole trees floating down the river,” Manning, who lives in Terra Haute, Indiana, told the Associated Press. “Saw a crazy single Kecker coming down, which was kind of crazy.”
On Monday evening, Manning observed strong water eroding the opposite river bank, causing a house to fall into the Yellowstone River and remain mostly intact.
Floodwaters submerged a street in Red Lodge, a Montana town of 2,100, which is a popular jumping-off point for a scenic, winding route in the Yellowstone high country. As The Billings Gazette reports, in Joliet, twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) northeast, Kristen Apodaka wiped tears as she stood across the street from a washed-out bridge.
The log cabin that belonged to her grandmother, who died in March, was flooded, as was the park where Apodaka’s husband had proposed.
“I am the sixth generation. This is our house,” she said. “The bridge I literally ran yesterday. My mother left it at 3 a.m. before washing it.”
On Monday, Yellowstone officials evacuated the northern part of the park, where roads may remain impassable, Park Superintendent Cam Sholey said in a statement.
But the flooding also affected the rest of the park, with park officials warning of yet high flooding and potential problems with water supply and wastewater systems in developed areas.
Yellowstone received 2.5 inches (6 cm) of rain on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. According to the National Weather Service, Beartooth Mountain has risen to 4 inches (10 cm) northeast of Yellowstone.
In south-central Montana, a flood on the Stillwater River trapped 68 people at a campground. Employees with Stillwater County Emergency Services agencies and Stillwater Mine rescue people by raft from Woodbine Campground on Monday. Some roads in the area were closed due to the floods and residents have been evacuated.
“We will assess the damage to homes and structures when the water is low,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The floods occurred when other parts of the US burned in hot and dry weather. More than 100 million Americans were being warned to stay indoors as a heat wave settles in states stretching from parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and the Carolinas in the east.
Elsewhere in the west, crews from California to New Mexico are battling wildfires in hot, dry, and windy weather.
Associated Press writers Thomas Peppert in Denver, Mead Gruver in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.