Yellowstone National Park closed for several days due to dangerous flooding
Extreme weather has shut down one of America’s most beloved national parks, and Yellowstone National Park officials say it’s too soon to know how much damage has been done and when the park might reopen.
“We won’t know until we can assess. We will do everything we can to safely reopen, but that will start with the southern loop in some modified way with visitor access,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a news conference with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Yellowstone remains evacuated after being hit with a catastrophic flood event.
“Over the weekend and into Sunday night, we received two to three inches of rain, with some warming temperatures that look like dropped on five to six inches of snow that melted and caused a major flood event in most of the northern range of Yellowstone,” Sholly said.
The corridor between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner has suffered significant damage, according to Sholly. He said the road and hundreds of bridges in the backcountry of the northern loop have been damaged or destroyed.
Park staff are still worried that there is more damage to come.
“We still have 12 inches of snowpack left, and if we get warming temperatures and the right mixture of precipitation like we did Sunday, we could have another flood event coming through Yellowstone in the next four to five days,” Sholly said.
After flooding stranded visitors and residents in Gardiner Monday, Highway 89 reopened Tuesday for those residents and visitors to evacuate. Park officials then proceeded to evacuate the southern loop of the park, and eventually evacuate back country visitors. As of Tuesday afternoon, Sholly said all 10,000 park visitors have been evacuated.
“Once we got the visitors out of the northern loop, we proceeded to evaluate more carefully what the impacts on the southern loop — from the roads to the bridges to waste water treatment facilities” Sholly said. “This is not going to be an easy rebuild. There are obviously things we’re going to need to do to stabilize.”
Sholly said the million-dollar question is what the overall damage to Yellowstone is and what will it cost?
“The answer is we don’t know exactly yet. Water is extremely high; we’re not putting teams in harm’s way at this point. When the water subsides probably early next week, we will be pulling together a large number of people from agencies around the country to come to Yellowstone and help us assess what the damage is to various infrastructure in the park.”
In Tuesday’s press event, Sholly spoke about a home that toppled into the river. He said the building housed employees of Yellowstone National Park. Fortunately, those employees evacuated Monday night, and nobody was hurt.
“That entire structure floated on the river for about five miles, unfortunately. Although a lot of the belongings got out of this house, a lot of our employees lost a considerable amount.”
For the most up-to-date information about the situation in Yellowstone National Park, click here.
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