US: Floods at Yellowstone National Park wipe out roads, bridges, strand visitors

Massive floodwaters devastated Yellowstone National Park and nearby communities on Monday, washing away roads and bridges, cutting power and forcing visitors to evacuate parts of the popular park at the height of the summer tourism season.

All entrances to Yellowstone were closed due to the deluge caused by torrential rain and thaw, while park officials removed tourists from the worst-affected areas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Some of the worst damage occurred in the northern part of the park and in the Yellowstone Gateway communities of southern Montana. Pictures of the North Yellowstone National Park Service showed a landslide, a bridge overpass and roads were severely cut off by flood waters in the Gardner and Lamar rivers.

There were no immediate reports of injuries although dozens of stranded campers were rescued by raft in south-central Montana.

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.

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

“We’re starting to see whole trees floating on the river, and debris,” Manning said. Associated Press. “I saw one crazy kayaker coming down through it, and that was kind of crazy.”

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.

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, broke down in tears as she stood across the street from a sunken bridge.

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

“I am of 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 are clearing the northern part of the park, 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.

“We won’t know when the park will reopen until the flood waters have subsided and we can assess damage throughout the park,” Shuli said in the statement.

Officials said the park’s gates will be closed at least until Wednesday. It is unclear how many visitors were forced to leave the park.

It rained with the increase in the summer tourist season. June, at the start of the annual wave of more than 3 million visitors that doesn’t stop until fall, is one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.

The remnants of winter – in the form of snow still melting and rushing from the mountains – made a particularly bad time for a downpour.

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

“It’s heavy rain, but flooding wouldn’t have happened like this if we didn’t have a lot of snow,” said Cory Motis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana. “This is a flood that we have never seen in our lifetime.” The rain is likely to recede, while cooler temperatures reduce the thaw in the coming days, Motis said.

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, windy weather.

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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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