Yellowstone to Shut “Permanently”?

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As deadly flooding continues to damage the towns, roads, and bridges along the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park may be closed “indefinitely.”

Park officials described the region’s massive flooding as a once-in-a-thousand-year occurrence that might change the path of the Yellowstone River and neighboring landscapes forever.

Highway workers build up the shoreline of a washed out bridge along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mont. Yellowstone National Park officials say more than 10,000 visitors have been ordered out of the nation's oldest national park after unprecedented flooding tore through its northern half, washing out bridges and roads and sweeping an employee bunkhouse miles downstream.
Highway workers build up the shoreline of a washed out bridge along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mont. Yellowstone National Park officials say more than 10,000 visitors have been ordered out of the nation’s oldest national park after unprecedented flooding tore through its northern half, washing out bridges and roads and sweeping an employee bunkhouse miles downstream.
PHOTO: Rick Bowmer | AP Photo

According to officials, the river’s volume is flowing 20,000 cubic feet per second quicker than the previous record set in the 1990s.

10,000 tourists were evacuated, including a dozen trapped campers who were rescued by helicopter, entirely emptying the park.

Officials issued a warning on Tuesday that local drinking water has become dangerous, and that residents should be on the lookout for displaced wildlife.

Flooding is observed in Livingston, Montana on June 14, 2022. Rain and snow melt from the mountains in and around Yellowstone National Park have resulted in a historic high flow of the Yellowstone River.
Flooding is observed in Livingston, Montana on June 14, 2022. Rain and snow melt from the mountains in and around Yellowstone National Park have resulted in a historic high flow of the Yellowstone River.
PHOTO: William Campbell | Getty Images
The Yellowstone River flows through Gardiner, Mont., Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Yellowstone National Park officials say more than 10,000 visitors have been ordered out of the nation's oldest national park after unprecedented flooding tore through its northern half, washing out bridges and roads and sweeping an employee bunkhouse miles downstream.
The Yellowstone River flows through Gardiner, Mont., Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Yellowstone National Park officials say more than 10,000 visitors have been ordered out of the nation’s oldest national park after unprecedented flooding tore through its northern half, washing out bridges and roads and sweeping an employee bunkhouse miles downstream.
PHOTO: Rick Bowmer | AP Photo

All park entrances were closed on Tuesday, and while park officials believe some southern routes may reopen in a week, they estimate that the northern roads will remain closed until the fall.

Streams that erupted into roaring rivers overwhelmed or swept away houses in adjacent villages, roads were carved away, and bridges collapsed into the torrent.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte declared a statewide catastrophe.

Residents of Red Lodge, Montana, are seen clearing mud, water and debris from the small city's main street on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, after flood waters courses through a residential area with hundreds of homes.
Residents of Red Lodge, Montana, are seen clearing mud, water and debris from the small city’s main street on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, after flood waters courses through a residential area with hundreds of homes.
Photo credit: Matthew Brown/AP Photo

Officials have described the unprecedented floods as a once-in-a-millennium event.

“This isn’t my words, but I’ve heard this is a thousand-year event,” said Cam Sholly, Yellowstone’s superintendent.

Sholly said that the river’s volumetric flow has shattered all previous records as of last weekend.

”From what I understand, one of the highest cubic feet per second ratings for the Yellowstone River recorded in the ’90s was at 31,000 CFS, and Sunday night we were at 51,000 CFS.”

A washed out bridge shown along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mont. Historic floodwaters that raged through Yellowstone National Park may have permanently altered the course of a popular fishing river and left the sweeping landscape forever changed.
A washed out bridge shown along the Yellowstone River Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mont. Historic floodwaters that raged through Yellowstone National Park may have permanently altered the course of a popular fishing river and left the sweeping landscape forever changed.
PHOTO: Rick Bowmer | AP Photo

Sholly also stated that historic weather events “seem to be happening more and more frequently.”

As rockslides fell down on roads, mudslides tumbled down valleys, and the roaring river dragged landscapes, bridges, and buildings alike into its fury, all tourists were ordered out of the park.

“It is just the scariest river ever,” said Kate Gomez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tuesday.

Floodwaters are seen along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up.
Floodwaters are seen along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up.
PHOTO: Emma H. Tobin/AP Photo

After the park’s shutdown, 12 trekkers stayed in the park’s backcountry and were finally rescued by a Montana National Guard helicopter.

Gianforte declared a statewide emergency on Tuesday, claiming that quick snowmelt and recent heavy rains had caused “severe flooding that is destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and leaving Montanans without power and water services.”

“I have asked state agencies to bring their resources to bear in support of these communities,” he added.

Flood damage is seen along a street Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Red Lodge, Mont. Residents were cleaning up after record floods in southern Montana this week.
Flood damage is seen along a street Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Red Lodge, Mont. Residents were cleaning up after record floods in southern Montana this week.
PHOTO: Matthew Brown | AP Photo

The upheaval came after one of the region’s wettest springs in many years, and it coincided with a dramatic spike in summer temperatures that expedited runoff of melting snow from late-winter storms in the park’s higher altitudes.

The disastrous impacts of the extreme weather were documented on video by shocked residents and passersby, including a home carried away by rising floodwaters on the banks of the Yellowstone River, a bridge collapse, and cars on a mountain pass just missing falling rocks displaced by the storm.

Flooding is seen on June 14, 2022 in Livingston, Montana.
Flooding is seen on June 14, 2022 in Livingston, Montana.
PHOTO: William Campbell/Getty Images

A creek running through Red Lodge, Montana – a town of 2,100 that serves as a popular jumping-off point for a gorgeous, meandering road into Yellowstone, –  broke its banks and inundated the main thoroughfare, leaving fish swimming in the street a day later under sunny skies.

Residents recounted a terrifying scene in which the water rose from a trickle to a torrent in a matter of hours.

The water brought down telephone lines, collapsed fences, and dug wide fractures in the ground across a community of hundreds of homes. The electricity was knocked out but restored by Tuesday, while the afflicted area still had no running water.

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