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Yellowstone National Park will remain closed to incoming visitors through at least Wednesday after heavy flooding destroyed roads and structures throughout the park, prompting evacuations and cutting off a key gateway community.
From Saturday through Monday, Yellowstone received roughly 2.5 inches of rain, including 1.37 inches over one 24-hour period—more than triple the previous one-day record, as Wyoming’s Casper Star-Tribune noted. Combined with seasonal snowmelt, that precipitation caused “unprecedented” flooding and swept away multiple sections of road and bridges, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly wrote in a press release.
By 11:10 a.m. on Monday, power was out throughout large portions of Yellowstone, and officials announced that they had closed all five entrances to inbound traffic and had begun evacuating visitors in the northern section of the park. In an update that afternoon, the park service announced it would begin evacuating people from the southern section as well.
“We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we’re able to assess the damage throughout the park,” wrote Sholly. “It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time.”
Photos from the park showed normally dry meadows engulfed by floodwaters as the Yellowstone River and its tributaries swelled beyond their banks, rockfall loosened by the heavy precipitation scattered across roadways, and bridges choked with branches and other flood debris. In an aerial video shot by the park’s helicopter manager, floodwaters inundate the road through Gardner Canyon, with entire sections of the pavement missing or heaved and cracked to pieces.
Besides the damage to the park proper, Sholly wrote that the National Park Service was working with federal and state partners to support the nearby community of Gardiner, Montana, which remained cut off by flooding. Speaking to USA Today, Austin King, a Gardiner-based firefighter and EMT, said that flooding had completely washed away a park-owned, 10-person bunkhouse in town, but that all of its residents had gotten away safely.
“I’ve never seen this, not in my lifetime,” King told the newspaper. “There are people that have lived here 64 years — they’ve never seen the river this high.”
Yellowstone recorded a record 4,860,537 visits last year. June traditionally marks the beginning of the park’s high season, as tourists return to the thawing high country to see Yellowstone’s bison, grizzlies, and legendary geysers.