A severe rain storm brought flash flooding to the Yellowstone National Park area yesterday, washing away numerous roads and structures in swift currents, forcing a closure of the park while trapping thousands of tourists within it. June is typically a very busy time in the park, with more than 750,000 visitors expected over the month.
“Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and other issues,” Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement.
The plan is to try to evacuate park visitors from the southern loop of the park starting later today. The northern loop is likely to be closed “for a substantial amount of time,” and the park’s reopening will be determined after flood waters recede and damage is assessed.
“Effective immediately, there will be no inbound visitor traffic at any of the five entrances into Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, June 14, and Wednesday, June 15, at a minimum,” said the park through its social media feeds.
Yellowstone National Park is making roadway alerts public through text messages and a telephone number that’ll be updated from time to time with a recorded message. To receive Yellowstone road alerts on your mobile phone, text “82190” to 888-777 (an automatic text reply will confirm receipt and provide instructions). Or interested people can call (307) 344-2117 for a recorded message.
On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal and geologic features there. Within Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, visitors typically have unparalleled opportunities to observe wildlife in an intact ecosystem, explore geothermal areas that contain about half the world’s active geysers, and view geologic wonders like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
Unfortunately, viewing such sites won’t be possible in the near term. In addition to flood waters washing away roads through the park, trailways were also impacted by the heavy rain. Flash floods washed away some trails while covering others in debris carried by flood waters. Pedestrian and vehicular bridges are also washed-away in parts of the park. The heavy rain also triggered rockslides, sending down huge boulders and making other hillsides unstable.
Sholly added in a statement, “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. It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time. I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and of our gateway community partners who are helping us through this major event. We appreciate the support offered by the Department of the Interior, National Park Service and the Montana and Wyoming governors.”