Record flooding and rockslides following a bout of heavy rain on Monday prompted the rare closure of all five entrances to Yellowstone National Park at the start of the summer tourist season, the park manager said.
The entire park, which spans parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, will remain closed to visitors, including those with stay and camp reservations, at least until Wednesday, when officials assess damage to roads, bridges and other facilities.
All five park entrances have been closed to incoming traffic in the first summer since a series of devastating bushfires in 1988. The National Park Service has been working to reach remaining visitors and staff at various locations, particularly in the hardest-hit North Wing of Yellowstone, according to officials. He said.
“Our first priority was to evacuate the northern part of the park where we have many faults in roads and bridges, mudslides and other issues,” Park Director Cam Choli said in a statement.
The “Gateway” community in Gardiner, Montana, north of the park’s northern boundary and home to many Yellowstone employees, has been cut down by a mudslide in the vicinity, according to the National Park Service.
Electrical power was cut in multiple areas of the park, and initial assessments showed that many sections of roads across Yellowstone either drifted or were covered in rocks and mud, with a number of bridges also damaged, according to the park service.
The agency said several roads in the park’s southern layer were about to be flooded.
Floods and landslides caused days of heavy rain in the park and continuous rain across much of the wider area after one of its wettest springs in many years. The park service described the levels of precipitation and flooding in the park as unprecedented.
The sudden rise in summer temperatures over the past three days has also accelerated the melting and run-off of snow accumulated in the park’s higher elevations from late-winter storms.
Heavy rain and melting snow runoff combined to create treacherous conditions in the park just two weeks after the traditional Memorial Day weekend kicked off for the US summer tourism season, which accounts for the greater part of the 4 million annual visitors in Yellowstone.