Yellowstone National Park‘s Superintendent Cam Sholly and Gardiner, Montana Commissioner Bill Berg speak on 2022’s catastrophic flooding.
The following commentary may be abbreviated for accuracy as Yellowstone National Park’s press conference commences. The conference began at 4:00 PM MT Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Yellowstone’s press conference comes after “unprecedented” flooding to the park, Montana, and Wyoming that began on June 13. Superintendent Cam Sholly’s previous statement on the disaster can be found here.
For photos of the fallout, see Yellowstone National Park Flooding: All The Latest Photos & Videos.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly:
“This is a thousand year event, whatever that means… They seem to be happening more and more frequently… One of the highest cubic-feet-per-second recordings” for Yellowstone River water levels.
“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 be pulled into help assess damage to various infrastructure in the park.”
“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.”
Initially, “Several thousand visitors were stranded in the Northern Loop” then evacuated Monday, June 13. “As of Tuesday morning, all visitors are evacuated from Yellowstone National Park.”
“The damage on the Southern Loop is much less than the Northern Loop.”
“Mammoth will likely not reopen this year… We will likely not reopen the road between Garnder and Mammoth for the rest of the summer. That will likely stay closed for the rest of the season.”
Yellowstone National Park is unlikely to repair these same roads, as a future flooding event may cause the same damage.
“Full closure of Yellowstone backcountry… We have contacted every known backcountry user in Yellowstone. Only one group remains. We are prepared to do helicopter evacuation if necessary.”
Yellowstone National Park Flooding Press Conference Continues, Sholly:
“We will not know exactly what timelines or costs are or any of that information until we get teams on the ground and can assess what happened and what it will take to repair it.”
“Power has been out for at least 30 hours… Conducting repairs as we speak… Power is expected to be on before Tuesday’s end.”
“Highway 89 just opened this morning… There are two contingency options. We are looking to make some temporary improvements to roads for access between Mammoth and Gardener.”
“Half of the park cannot support the full visitation Yellowstone expects.”
“Wastewater failures have reinforced decisions to evacuate all visitors from the entire park.”
“As of right now… We moved every visitor out of the park… We have not had any injuries to the public or employees, either.”
Yellowstone is “going to do everything we can to safely reopen the park. This will start with the Southern Loop… The Southern Loop should be open and ready for access relatively soon. But the Northern Loop will take a considerable amount of time and effort.”
“Average visitation in June can be between 15-20,000, in that range. But it was well over 10,000 visitors safely in the park. Well over a thousand were stranded in Gardiner alone.”
“We closed for two months during Covid… But I don’t believe we’ve ever closed the park for flooding.”
Gardiner, Montana Commissioner Bill Berg:
“The landscape has changed dramatically, literally and figuratively, in the past 48 hours.”
“This is going to be a pretty big hit. COVID hit us like the rest of the world. Fires have hit us pretty hard on top of the pandemic, and now we have the flood to add to the mix… Local businesses are already trying to figure out to do what with their staffs… It’s going to be pretty tough for Gardiner [Montana] businesses to recover from.”
“We like to think the highest of the water is behind us… We have been given a little bit of a time out. The water has backed off a bit… We’re working through it. It’s a lot on top of a lot.”
“We’ve lost several roads in Park County… Three bridges in Cooke…”
How Can We Help Yellowstone National Park & Gateway Communities?
“Once we get the roads [back in shape], folks in Gardiner would still like to see you come. Make a reservation, come to West Yellowstone, book a room.”
“Making proactive reservations for the next year and seasons” will also help, Berg cites. “And gift certificates!”
“The important thing is for us to understand we’re only 36 hours into this event… We’ll be able to identify ways for people to help soon,” Sholly adds before echoing what Berg says about supporting Gateway communities.
Closing Remarks from Yellowstone Superintendent Sholly:
Before closing the conference at 5:00 PM MT, Superintendent Cam Sholly offered the following closing remarks.
“Thank you, all of you, for reporting on this. I know some of these answers that you might want in more detail we can’t provide right now. But we will continue to work diligently [towards] more progress, get more organized, so those questions can be answered a little bit better. I want to make sure everybody understands that we’ve had good success here in replacing different infrastructures and park maintenance. But I also think that this event shows that it’s important to make sure that we’re building our assets in a resilient way… Understanding that the future may be different than the past,” Sholly offers.
“We need to continue to work together to identify what needs to be done. And make sure what we’re doing here can accomplish the mission of service. Which is: protection of this place, first and foremost, and enjoyment of this place at the same time. This is sometimes contradictory, but it is really important. Thanks to all of you for helping us achieve that,” Sholly concludes.
NPS’ Yellowstone National Park website will provide daily updates on the flood, as will Outsider. Our best to all those affected by this disaster. For ways to help Yellowstone and gateway communities, please see Sholly and Berg’s comments above.