All entrances to Yellowstone National Park were closed indefinitely on Monday after heavy rains and melting mountain snow conspired to surge into three main rivers and cut off access.
“Effective immediately, there will be no inbound visitor traffic at any of the five entrances into Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, June 14, and Wednesday, June 15, at a minimum,” the National Park Service said Monday in a statement. “No inbound visitor traffic will be allowed into the park until conditions stabilize and the park can assess damage to roads and bridges and other facilities. This includes visitors with lodging and camping reservations.”
From Saturday into Monday, 2.5 inches of rain fell on Yellowstone, and the Beartooth Mountains to the northeast of the park got up to 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
The unprecedented rainfall and resultant floods sent the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers to record levels Monday, washing out roads and sending rockslides and mudslides tumbling onto roadways. There were also power outages throughout the park, and drinking water had been rendered unsafe in some counties.
Aerial shots from a National Parks Service flyover showed entire sections of road missing as roaring water from the Gardner and Lamar rivers tore out chunks of pavement.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte declared a statewide disaster as rushing rivers swallowed homes along their banks and 68 people were stranded at a campground in the south-central region of the state.
Locals and tourists alike were stranded. And there was no end in sight, just as the park was poised to welcome millions of visitors for its summer seaons.
“Due to record flooding events in the park and more precipitation in the forecast, we have made the decision to close Yellowstone to all inbound visitation,” park superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. “Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues. The community of Gardiner is currently isolated, and we are working with the county and State of Montana to provide necessary support to residents, who are currently without water and power in some areas.”
Visitors were also being evacuated from the southern loop because of flood level predictions, Sholly said.
“We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until floodwaters subside and we’re able to assess the damage throughout the park,” Sholly said. “It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time.”
With News Wire Services
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