Parts of Yellowstone National Park may remain closed for “substantial time” after heavy flooding

“Many sections of road in (the northern section) have completely disappeared and will require substantial time and effort to rebuild,” the park’s press release says. “… Roads north of Yellowstone are unlikely to reopen this season due to the time required for repairs.”

Dangerous flooding caused by heavy rain and rapid snow melting began Monday to affect the park and several southern Montana counties, washing or eroding roads and bridges and causing widespread damage to homes and businesses.

The park closed all five entrances from Yellowstone to Montana and Wyoming to incoming traffic on Monday, in part to prevent people from getting stranded as conditions deteriorated, with no firm date for reopening.

And park officials told visitors they were already leaving: More than 10,000 have left the park since Monday, Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said Tuesday.

Although cooler temperatures and drier weather have allowed some parts of the swollen rivers to begin to recede, higher temperatures are expected later this week and over the weekend, which could lead to more snowfall. and therefore more flooding, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

“There will be no visitor traffic at any of the five entrances to the park, including visitors with accommodation and camping reservations, until conditions improve and the park’s infrastructure is assessed,” the park statement said.

The rapidly deteriorating road conditions in Yellowstone created appalling evacuation conditions for some visitors, including the parents of CNN supervisor producer Tim Carter, who had to leave by a bridge that had been compromised.

“When we reviewed it, it was really scary because the water was already spinning violently around the bridge,” Martha Carter said. “We later learned that it had been deleted.”

Meanwhile, some surrounding communities were left without electricity or drinking water, as flooding conditions made travel impossible or unsafe and compromised water supply.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte declared a statewide disaster Tuesday and announced he would call for an expedited presidential disaster declaration to help cover the cost of recovery.

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

Dangerous flooding is just one of several extreme weather events affecting U.S. communities, including a heat wave affecting more than 100 million people and severe storms that have cut off hundreds of thousands of people in the Midwest. and in the Ohio River Valley. .

Dramatic floods cause evacuations and rescues

Rapid rising water levels flooded homes, businesses and infrastructure in southern Montana on Monday, forcing many families to evacuate. But for some, roads and bridges became impassable due to the flood, leaving them trapped, sometimes without drinking water or electricity.

The Montana National Guard deployed four helicopters to assist in evacuations to the affected areas on Monday and Tuesday and also sent troops to the town of Red Lodge to establish a command center and assist in search and rescue efforts, he said. Tuesday the force.

A Montana helicopter company blew about 40 people out of Gardiner, the city that serves as the gateway to the north park entrance and was isolated by flooding, Laura Jones told CNN with Rocky Mountain Rotors.

Road from Livingston to Gardiner reopened Tuesday to local traffic, goods and services, but there is still “significant damage,” Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler told a news conference.

Heavy rainfall and snowfall over the weekend in the Beartooth and Absaroka Ranges, which stretch across the Montana-Wyoming border, created a “total water event of at least 4 9 inches, “Billings National Meteorological Service said Tuesday.

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

The width of the Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs reached a record 13.88 feet on Monday afternoon, according to NOAA data, but had fallen back to 9.34 feet on Tuesday night.

Tracy Planichek, a resident of Absarokee, and her husband had just completed their long-awaited goal of owning a new home when the flood threat forced them to evacuate. Now, he told CNN, he desperately hopes he has avoided the destruction seen in other homes, some of which were swept away.

“We’ve never been able to afford a new home,” he said. “He’s sitting at the top of the lane and hopefully by some miracle of God our house will be there.”

At the park, officials forced all visitors to leave the accommodation and campgrounds and leave the park to prevent anyone from being stranded, the National Parks Service said in a press release. The park has an average of 15,000 to 20,000 visitors in June, Sholly said.

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

“We have contacted or know the whereabouts of all users in the country who are currently in Yellowstone,” Sholly said, noting that one group remained in the North Range. No helicopter evacuation was required, he said.

There have been no injuries or deaths in the park due to the flooding, Sholly said, and officials do not believe the park’s animals have been significantly affected.

The southern loop of the park “appears to be less affected than the northern roads” and teams will try to determine when that loop can be reopened. But officials hope that even this loop will remain closed at least until Sunday, according to the park statement.

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

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