Yellowstone officials assess damage after historic floods

Helena, Mont. (Associated Press) — torrential rain combined with rapid thawing caused flooding that evacuated some parts of Yellowstone National Park, cut off electricity and forced park officials to close all entrances indefinitely, just like the summer tourist season. was inclined.

While many homes and other buildings were destroyed, there were no immediate reports of injuries. Yellowstone officials said they are assessing damage from storms that have washed away bridges, caused mudslides and left small towns isolated, forcing evacuations by boat and helicopter.

It is unclear how many visitors have been stranded or forced to leave the park and how many people living outside the park have been rescued and evacuated.

Some of the worst damage occurred in the northern part of the park and in the Yellowstone Gateway communities of southern Montana. North Yellowstone National Park Service photos showed mudslides, bridges and roads cut off by flood waters in the Gardner and Lamar Rivers.

Floods cut off the road to Gardiner, Montana, a town of about 900 people near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Gardner Rivers, just outside the busy northern entrance to Yellowstone. The city of Cooke has also been cut off by floodwaters, and evacuations have been issued to residents of Livingston.

Park County officials, which includes those cities, said On Facebook Monday night, widespread flooding across the county has made drinking water unsafe in many areas. Evacuations and rescues continued and officials urged people who were in a safe place to stay somewhere overnight.

The Montana National Guard said Monday it has dispatched two helicopters to southern Montana to assist with evacuations.

Precipitation is not in the immediate forecast, and cooler temperatures will reduce snowmelt in the coming days, said Cory Motis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana.

“This is a flood we’ve never seen in our lifetime,” Mutis said.

Scientists say climate change is responsible for more severe and frequent extremes such as storms, droughts, floods and wildfires, although individual weather events cannot be directly linked to climate change without extensive study.

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The Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs reached a height of 13.88 feet (4.2 meters) on Monday, higher than the previous record of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) set in 1918, according to the National Weather Service.

In one of the cabins in Gardiner, Parker Manning got a close-up view of the rising waters and the riverbank falling into the raging floodwaters of the Yellowstone River outside his door.

“We’re starting to see whole trees floating down the river, debris,” Manning, who hails from Terra Haute, Indiana, told The Associated Press. “I saw one crazy kayaker coming down through it, and that was kind of crazy.”

On Monday evening, Manning watched the gushing water erode the opposite riverbank, causing a house to fall into the Yellowstone River and float away mostly intact.

Flood waters inundated a street in Red Lodge, a Montana town of 2,100 residents that is a popular starting point for a scenic winding route into the high country of Yellowstone. The Billings Gazette reports that Kristan Apodaca, 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the northeast, in Juliet, wiped her tears as she stood across the street from a sunken bridge..

The log cabin of her grandmother, who died in March, was flooded, as was the garden that Apodaca’s husband had proposed to her.

“I am the sixth generation,” she said. “That bridge I drove literally yesterday. My mother drove it at three in the morning before the water washed it.”

Park manager Cam Scholey said in a statement that Yellowstone officials evacuated the northern part of the park on Monday, where roads may remain impassable for an extended period of time.

But flooding affected the rest of the park as well, with park officials warning of rising flooding and potential problems with water supply and sewage systems in developed areas.

It rains during the high tourist season: June, at the start of the annual wave of more than 3 million visitors that doesn’t abate until fall, is one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.

Yellowstone saw 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) of rain Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The Beartooth Mountains northeast of Yellowstone have gotten as much as 4 inches (10 cm), according to the National Weather Service.

In south central Montana, flooding in the Stillwater River left 68 people stranded at a campground. Stillwater County emergency services agencies and crews at the Stillwater mine rescued people Monday from Woodbine Campground on a boat. Some roads in the area were closed due to flooding and residents were evacuated.

“We will assess losses in homes and buildings when the water recedes,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The floods occurred as other parts of the United States burned in hot, dry weather. More than 100 million Americans have been warned to stay home as a heat wave continues over states that stretch across parts of the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes region and east to the Carolinas.

Elsewhere in the West, crews from California to New Mexico are battling wildfires In hot, dry and windy weather.

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Associated Press writers Thomas Papert in Denver, Med Grover in Fort Collins, Colorado, and Lisa Bowman in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

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