Floods in Yellowstone National Park: ‘Unprecedented’ floods force park to close all entrances and trap locals

The park announced Monday afternoon that all park entrances were closed to visitors, citing “record flooding” and the expectation of more rain to come.

“Our first priority was to evacuate the northern portion of the park, where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement Monday.

Immediately north of the Yellowstone, several towns in Montana’s Park County are also experiencing extensive flooding, which has washed away bridges and roads, making it unsafe to travel or impossible to evacuate, Park County officials said on Facebook Monday. Officials in many areas have also issued warnings for residents to avoid drinking local water due to a broken water main and flooded wells.

“The river has never been higher near my house,” said Elizabeth Aluck, who lives in Gardiner in Park County. Aluck told CNN on Monday afternoon that she cannot evacuate because the roads and bridges around her home have been washed away.

An Indiana family staying in a short-term rental cottage in Gardiner told CNN they were leaving Monday morning, but the flooding left them stranded.

“Water levels were high on Saturday, but in the past 10-12 hours it has gotten worse,” said Parker Manning. “Our way out of town would be north on 89, but those roads are all under water right now.”

The Yellowstone River, which runs through the park and several Park County towns, swelled to an all-time high on Monday due to recent heavy rains and significant runoff from snowmelt at higher elevations, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

The Yellowstone River gauge in Corwin Springs, Montana, reached 13.88 feet Monday afternoon, surpassing its historic 1918 high peak of 11.5 feet, NOAA river gauge data shows. “The river is still rising near Livingston and is expected to clear between 6 and 9 p.m. Monday,” Park County officials said on Facebook.
Across the country, extreme weather events have plagued communities across the country in recent days, including thunderstorms that left nearly 300,000 Midwestern customers without power, a tornado threat in Chicago and a severe heat dome that left more than a third of the U.S. population under heat. warnings.
A major landslide on North Entrance Road in Yellowstone National Park Monday.

Some are evacuated, others remain captive

With several roads and bridges rendered impassable by flooding, park and county officials are working to evacuate everyone and provide support to those unable to leave.

The Park County Sheriff’s Department has issued a shelter order until 7 a.m. Monday for those south of mile marker 52.5 on U.S. Highway 89 South, the Facebook post said.

The National Guard and local search and rescue teams assisted in evacuations and rescues across the province, including two airlifts and one rapid water rescue, the province said.

A flood causes part of a house in Gardiner, Montana, to plunge into water.
Multiple communities in Park County are isolated and surrounded by water, including Gardiner, Cooke City and Silver Gate, according to an update on the county’s Facebook page. Rapidly flowing floods have also damaged homes, as images show houses partially or completely collapsing.

In neighboring Carbon County, Montana, utility lines were endangered by flooding, leaving many customers at Red Lodge without power, officials said.

Meanwhile, several roads and bridges in Yellowstone have also been affected by flooding, park officials say. Videos released by the park show sections of paved road washed away or severely eroded.

A bridge at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park was washed away by running water.

Due to forecasts of higher flood levels and concerns about water and wastewater systems, the park also began moving visitors from the park’s southern loop on Monday, Sholly said.

“We won’t know the timing of the park’s reopening until the waters recede and we can assess the damage throughout the park,” Sholly said. “It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a considerable time.”

Dramatic increase in rain amplifies flooding

According to Miller, June rainfall in northwestern Wyoming and southern Montana was more than 400% of the region’s average.

The dramatic increase in rain has been linked to near-record temperatures in the region that have led to snowmelt in high-altitude areas, the NWS said in Riverton, Wyoming. Sunday night, the melting snow made its way into streams and rivers, adding even more to the floodwaters, the NWS said.

In addition to the record in Corwin Springs, the Yellowstone River reached 10.9 feet in Livingston, Montana, surpassing the 1997 record of 10.7 feet Monday, the NWS said in Billings, Montana.

CNN’s Sara Smart, Claudia Dominguez, Raja Razek, Brandon Miller and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.

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