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Monday, July 4, 2022

Yellowstone floods force 10,000 to leave national park

by Matthew Brown and Lindsay Whitehurst

Red Lodge, Mont. ( Associated Press) – More than 10,000 visitors from Yellowstone were ordered in as unprecedented flooding swept across the northern half of the nation’s oldest national park, washing away bridges and roads and a worker sweeping bunkhouse miles downstream was, officials said on Tuesday. Remarkably, no one was reported injured or killed.

The only visitors left in the sprawling park spanning three states were a dozen campers still venturing out into the backcountry.

Superintendent Cam Sholey said Yellowstone, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, could remain closed for a week, and the north entrance may not reopen this summer.

“The water is still raging,” said Sholey, who said more wetter weather was forecast later this week that could lead to additional flooding.

Flooding in the Yellowstone River after days of rain hit historic levels and quickly snowballed and wreaked havoc in parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming, where it swept away cabins, swept away small towns, power and homes. The flood came. This came in the form of the summer tourist season in the park, attracting millions of visitors.

Instead of marveling at grizzlies and bison, thanks to the thermal pools and regular eruptions of Old Faithful’s geysers, tourists found themselves witnessing nature at its most unexpected as the Yellowstone River engulfed in a chocolate-brown torrent that could kill anything in its path. Used to wash

“It’s the scariest river ever,” Kate Gomez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said Tuesday. “Anything that falls into that river is gone.”

The waters were just starting to recede on Tuesday, and the full extent of the destruction was not yet known.

Sholey said a backpacker living in the park was contacted. He said the crew was ready to rescue him by helicopter, but it was not needed.

Sholey said he did not believe the park had ever been closed by floods.

Gomez and her husband were among hundreds of tourists stranded in Gardiner, Montana, a city of about 800 residents at the park’s north entrance. The city was cut off for more than a day until Tuesday afternoon, when crews reopened a section of the two-lane road.

While the flooding cannot be directly attributed to climate change, it did come as the Midwest and East Coast, an early wildfire season amid a heat wave and persistent drought in other parts of the West. burns, which have increased in frequency and intensity. The fire which is having a huge impact. Smoke emanating from the fire in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona can be seen in Colorado.

Rick Thoman, a climatologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said a warmer climate makes extreme weather events more likely than “without the heat caused by human activity.”

“Will Yellowstone repeat this in five or 50 years? Probably not, but somewhere there will be something equivalent or even more extreme,” he said.

Heavy rain over melting mountain snow pushed the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers to record levels on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials in Yellowstone and several southern Montana counties were assessing damage from the storm, which also caused landslides and rockfalls. Montana Gov. Greg Gianfort declared a statewide disaster.

Some of the worst damage occurred in the northern portion of the park and the Yellowstone entrance communities 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.

In Red Lodge, Montana, a town of 2,100 that is a popular jumping-off point for a scenic, winding route in Yellowstone, a creek running through town jumped from its shore and a day later trout floated across the road. crossed the main road. Sunshine under the sky.

Residents described a harrowing scene where water moved from torrent to torrent within hours.

Water knocked down telephone poles, demolished enclosures and dug deep cracks in the ground around hundreds of homes. The power went out but was restored by Tuesday, although water was still not running in the affected areas.

Heidi Hoffman went out to Billings on Monday morning to buy a sump pump, but by the time she returned, her basement was full of water.

“We’ve lost all our stuff in the basement,” Hoffman said as the pump diverted a steady stream of water into his dirty backyard. “Yearbooks, pictures, clothes, furniture. Been cleaning for a long time.”

“On Monday, Yellowstone officials evacuated the northern part of the park, where roads may remain impassable for a long time,” 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.

In recent weeks, rains lashed hotels in the area with summer tourists. Last year the park attracted more than 4 million visitors. The wave of tourists doesn’t subside until fall, and June is usually one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.

It was not clear how many visitors were trapped in the area, or how many people living outside the park were rescued and evacuated.

Rocky Mountain Rotors owner and chief pilot Mark Taylor said his company had airlifted about 40 paying customers from Gardiner over the past two days, including two women who were “very pregnant.”

Taylor talked when he ferry a family of four adults to Texas who wanted to do some more sightseeing before heading home.

“I think they’re going to rent a car and they’re going to check out some other parts of Montana — somewhere drier,” he said.

In a cabin at Gardiner, Parker Manning of Terre Haute, Indiana, got a close-up view of the floodwaters of the Yellowstone River just outside his door. Whole trees and even a lone kayaker swam.

Early in the evening, they shot the video as the water ate up on the opposite shore, where a large brown house that was home to park employees who had been evacuated sat precariously.

In a great hoarse voice heard over the roar of the river, the house fell overboard and was pulled into the stream. Shawley said it swam 5 miles (8 kilometres) before sinking.

In south-central Montana, flooding on the Stillwater River trapped 68 people in the campground. Stillwater County Emergency Services agencies and Stillwater Mine crew rescue people from a raft at Woodbine Campground on Monday. Some roads in the area were closed and residents were evacuated.

The sheriff’s office said it would assess the damage when the water receded.

The cities of Cook City and Silvergate just east of the park were also torn apart by floodwaters.

In Livingston, residents of low-lying areas were told to leave and the city hospital was evacuated as a precaution after its driveway was flooded.

Park County officials, including Gardiner and Cook City, said widespread flooding across the county made drinking water unsafe in many areas.

The Montana National Guard said on Monday it sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help with the evacuation.

Shelley Blazina said, in the village of Nee, at least four cabins washed up in the Stillwater River, one of which she owned.

“It was my sanctuary,” she said Tuesday. “Yesterday I was in shock. Today I am just in deep sadness.”

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.

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.


Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writers Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Becky Bohrer in Juno, Alaska, RJ Rico in Atlanta and Brian Meley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

World Nation News Desk
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