The entrances to Yellowstone National Park have been closed indefinitely and visitors were evacuated after heavy rain and flooding that washed away roads and caused rock slides, authorities said.
Each year, millions of visitors are drawn to the wilderness and active geysers in Yellowstone, the United States’ oldest national park and extends over over two million acres in the northwest corner of Wyoming and in Montana and Idaho. in 2021, more than 4.8 million people visited the park.
On Monday, the park’s superintendent, Cam Sholly, announced that the five entrances were closed to inbound traffic through at least Wednesday due to the “extremely dangerous” conditions. Video recorded from a helicopter showed a swollen river flowing along a collapsed, eroded road at the north entrance to the park.
Visitors were evacuated from the northern part of the park, where there were multiple mudslides and where roads and bridges failed, Mr Sholly said in a statement. Parts of the community of Gardiner, a hamlet of about 800 people that serves as the park’s main northern entrance, had no power or water and were receiving assistance from authorities in Montana, he said.
Mr Sholly said the timing of the park’s reopening was uncertain until officials were able to assess the damage. “It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a considerable time,” he said.
Visitors in the southern part of the park will also be evacuated as forecasts of rising flood levels raise concerns about water supply and wastewater systems, Mr. Sholly, die appointed superintendent of the park in 2018.
Heavy rain on Sunday and melting snow led to the flooding, which will continue to flow through the river system through northwestern Wyoming and southwestern Montana Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Jason Straub, a meteorologist with the Weather Service, said 1.37 inches of rain fell on Sunday, according to readings at Yellowstone Lake, a record of just under half an inch in 2005.
While cooler temperatures were forecast, slowing the rate of snowmelt, the region remained under a flood advisory until Tuesday, the weather service said:† Thunderstorms and high winds were forecast, mainly in northern Wyoming, with a chance of thunderstorms for the rest of the week.
The unruly weather system has caused flooding to reach the southwestern reaches of Montana, affecting Park County residents along the edge of the park.
Patients and staff at a hospital in Livingston, Mont., were evacuated Monday as a precaution amid running water, and emergencies were diverted, the facility said:† Residents in some parts of the county, including Livingston, were evacuated from their homes, authorities said.
“Travel is extremely restricted and unsafe in many locations,” Park County emergency management authorities said in a statement. “Many bridges and roads are no longer operational. A lot of people are trapped.”
In Paradise Valley, which connects Livingston to Gardiner on the northern edge of Yellowstone, residents watched as the Yellowstone River lapped roads and took over properties in its path. A station was set up at the Park County Fairgrounds where homeowners could fill sandbags.
“It’s a matter of life or death,” Christine Jupe, a Park County resident who helped direct motorists away from the rising water, told KBZK Newsa television station in Bozeman, Mont.