National Park

Yellowstone National Park flood: As region assesses severe damage, Montana region braces for more flooding

Although cooler temperatures and drier weather have allowed rivers to begin to fall back to normal levels, warmer temperatures are expected later this week and over the weekend which could cause further flooding in the area due to snowmelt runoff, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. .

“Expect highs in the 60s to 70s at higher elevations [Friday and Saturday]which is expected to melt much of the remaining snowpack and lead to further flooding of the river,” the NWS said in Billings on Tuesday.

Dangerous flooding began to engulf the park and several southern Montana counties on Monday and Tuesday, washing away or eroding roads and bridges and inflicting extensive damage to homes and businesses.

Rapidly deteriorating road conditions in Yellowstone created harrowing evacuation conditions for some visitors, including the parents of CNN supervising producer Tim Carter, who had to exit through a compromised bridge.

“When we crossed it, it was really scary because the water was already swirling violently around the bridge,” Martha Carter said. “We found out later that it had been swept away.”

More than 10,000 people have left the park safely since authorities announced they would close all entrances to incoming visitors on Monday. After the announcement, officials prioritized evacuating the northern region due to “multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues,” the Yellowstone Park Superintendent said. , Cam Sholly.

Meanwhile, some surrounding communities have been left without electricity or drinking water, as flooding has made travel impossible or dangerous and compromised water supplies.

Governor Greg Gianforte declared a statewide disaster on Tuesday and announcement he would seek an expedited presidential disaster declaration to help defray the cost of recovery.

Since rescue efforts began on Monday, the Montana National Guard has evacuated at least a dozen people stranded in Roscoe, Fromberg and Cook City, the force said in a news release Tuesday.

The dangerous flooding is just one of many extreme weather events hitting communities across the United States, including a scorching heat wave affecting more than 100 million people and severe storms that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people in the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley. .

Dramatic flooding prompts evacuations and rescue efforts

Rapidly rising water levels flooded homes, businesses and infrastructure in southern Montana on Monday, forcing many families to evacuate. But for some, roads and bridges have been rendered impassable by the flood, leaving them trapped, sometimes without clean water or electricity.

The Montana National Guard deployed four helicopters Monday and Tuesday to assist with evacuations to affected areas and also sent soldiers to the town of Red Lodge to establish a command center and assist with search and rescue efforts, it said. Tuesday strength.

A Montana helicopter company has airlifted about 40 people out of Gardiner, the town that serves as the gateway to the park’s northern entrance and has been cut off by flooding, Laura Jones with Rocky Mountain Rotors told CNN .

The road from Livingston to Gardiner was reopened Tuesday to local traffic, goods and services, but “significant damage” remains, Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler said at a news conference.

The highway between Gardiner and Mammoth was washed out by fast-moving floodwaters.

Heavy rainfall and snowfall over the weekend in the Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges, which cross the Montana-Wyoming border, created a “total water event of at least 4 to 9 inches,” the National Weather Service said in Billings on Tuesday.

This amount of runoff is similar to the region receiving 2-3 months of June rainfall in just three days, according to CNN Weather’s calculations. The conditions caused the Yellowstone River, which runs through the park and several communities, to overflow.

The Yellowstone River gauge at Corwin Springs hit an all-time high of 13.88 feet Monday afternoon, according to NOAA data, but had fallen to 9.34 feet by Tuesday evening.

Absarokee resident Tracy Planichek and her husband had just achieved their long-awaited goal of having a brand new home when the threat of flooding forced them to evacuate. Now, she told CNN, she desperately hopes it has averted the destruction seen in other homes, some of which have been washed away by the rushing waters.

“[We’ve] never could afford a new house,” she said. “It’s up the lane and we hope that by a miracle of God our house will be there.”

In the park, officials made the decision to move all visitors out of accommodations and campgrounds and out of the park to avoid anyone being stranded, the National Park Service said in a news release. The park averages between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors in June, Sholly said.
A road near the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park was significantly damaged by flooding.

The park has also closed the Yellowstone backcountry and has been in contact with groups in the area.

“We have contacted or know the whereabouts of all backcountry users currently in Yellowstone,” Sholly said, noting that there remains one cluster in the North Range. No helicopter evacuation was necessary, he said.

No known injuries or deaths have occurred in the park from the flooding, Sholly said, and officials do not believe animals in the park were significantly affected.

Areas of the park may close for a ‘substantial’ time

The northern portion of the park is expected to remain closed for “a substantial amount of time due to severely damaged and impacted infrastructure,” the National Park Service said in a news release.

In the northern areas of the park, which bore the brunt of the flooding, roads suffered “major damage”, with many sections of road completely destroyed, the NPS said.

“The National Park Service will do everything possible to repair these roads as soon as possible,” the NPS said. “However, it is likely that sections of road in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season due to time needed for repairs.”

A washed out bridge at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park.

Park officials will conduct a full damage assessment once the floodwaters subside, but are preparing for another “flood event” in the coming days, Sholly said.

CNN’s Amanda Jackson, Caroll Alvarado and Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.