Rescue crews and emergency teams are frenetically trying to reopen roads and evacuate visitors of Yellowstone National Park this week thanks to unprecedented flooding. The torrential rain, paired with a heat wave which caused early ice melts, has left the park in very bad shape. As a result, park officials closed Yellowstone during a summer month for the first time in three decades.
The Governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte, declared a statewide disaster because of the record rainfall and mudslides. Three counties in and around the park area are affected the most. Gianforte said in a statement that “severe flooding that is destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and leaving Montanans without power and water services.”
“I have asked state agencies to bring their resources to bear in support of these communities,” he said, per Daily Mail.
Local videos of the damage continue to emerge daily. Yesterday three harrowing videos went viral on social media. In the first, an entire house falls into the rushing river and floats away like a boat. In the second, two guests barely escape rising flood waters in their trucks as they find a small service bridge to connect them with the park exit. And in the third, cars driving through a mountain pass narrowly avoid a deadly rockslide off the face.
The imminent danger prompted Yellowstone National Park officials to close all five inbound entrances
The last time park authorities closed the park during this time of year was in 1988 for the historic wildfires that burnt much of the area. Superintendent Cam Sholly said they do not know when the park can reopen until the water subsides; it might be in a few weeks, maybe after summer.
“The water is still raging,” he said, noting that more rain is coming, too.
At the request of local law enforcement, the Montana National Guard sent military helicopters to help search and rescue efforts. Many roads in and around the surrounding communities like Gardiner, Roscoe, and Cooke City are completely or partially obstructed. Residents and visitors may use the roads to evacuate; but very little incoming traffic can enter besides emergency vehicles or deliveries.
The winding North Entrance Road that runs between Gardiner (a town of about 900, including many park employees) and park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, largely washed away by surging floodwaters. Those washouts will likely take months to fully repair.
“The million-dollar question is, ‘What’s the damage?’ And the answer is, we don’t know yet. We’re not putting teams in harm’s way at the moment. Teams from around the country will come in to help assess damage to various infrastructure in the park,” Sholly said in a presser yesterday.
“As far as the animals… This has been the most spectacular animal viewing I’ve seen in the last six weeks. As of right now we don’t think the animals have been largely affected.”