Yellowstone flooding – live: Tourists warned National Park closed for months as video shows perilous escape

·23-min read
Yellowstone flooding – live: Tourists warned National Park closed for months as video shows perilous escape

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated from Yellowstone National Park, as dangerous flood waters have knocked out bridges and roads, as well as causing mud slides.

Heavy rains and snow melt caused the Yellowstone River to jump its banks, prompting widespread destruction and toppling riverside properties.

All five entrances to the park, which gets hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, have been closed to visitors for the first time in 34 years. Officials say the landscape has ben changed “literally”.

All visitors aside from a single group of backpackers have left the park, according to officials. Emergency crews are prepared to potentially rescue the group.

The north entrance of the park is expected to be closed all summer as officials seek to repair damaged infrastructure.

Key Points

Drinking water in Gardiner ‘biggest issue right now'

18:55 , Gino Spocchia

Gardiner, Montana, chamber of commerce president Mike Skelton also described the situation with drinking water in the town, which he said was “the biggest issue right now”.

“The biggest issue right now is the water, the city water supply has maybe been compromised,” he told KULR-8.

He said the local health department has ordered all restaurants and businesses to shut and that Montana state authorities are due to test the water quality for safety.

“The residents have been asked not to drink the city water, so there’s distribution points around the city of Gardiner that have bottled water”.

Other towns have reported similar measures as a result of the record breaking flooding.

One road open in Gardiner

18:04 , Gino Spocchia

The president of the Gardiner, Montana, chamber of commerce has told a local news station that one road is open in the town effectively stranded by floodwater.

Mike Skelton told KULR-8 on Wednesday: “There was no damage to the road leading up to Yankee Jim canyon which was the biggest concern”, heading east.

That has allowed residents and Yellowstone visitors to leave Gardiner, albeit slowly, with conditions on the road being described as “passable:.

“As you know being down here, there were several thousand visitors that were stuck here in Gardiner and couldn’t get out through the park, couldn’t get out through Highway 89”.

Video shows perilous escape from Yellowstone

17:43 , Gino Spocchia

A video shared to social media has given a glimpse of the conditions facing those escaping Yellowstone National Park amid record-breaking flooding and mudslides.

Drivers heading out of the northern entrance on Sunday amid heavy rainfall showed one car narrowly missing large chunks of rock falling from a cliff face.

Twitter user Anne Leopold said she caught the video below while exiting Yellowstone’s northern entrance near Gardiner – a town currently stranded by floodwater and home to many evacuees.

Snowmelt also blamed for flooding

17:06 , Gino Spocchia

Snowmelt has also been cited by meteorologists as a reason for the devastating floods across Yellowstone and southern Montana.

Yellowstone got 2.5 inches (6 centimetres) of rain on Saturday, Sunday and into Monday, while the Beartooth Mountains northeast of Yellowstone got almost 4 inches (10 centimetres), the National Weather Service had said.

Meteorologist Cory Mottice told the Associated Press: “It’s a lot of rain, but the flooding wouldn’t have been anything like this if we didn’t have so much snow”

“This is flooding that we’ve just never seen in our lifetimes before,” he added of the floods, that have swamped towns, damaged roads, and taken out power.

National Guard rescues 87 people in Montana

16:40 , Gino Spocchia

The Montana National Guard (MTNG) has now rescued 87 people since floods hit Yellowstone National Park on Monday, the agency said.

It means MTNG crews have flown 40 hours carrying out search and rescue missions across the central and southern Montana region. It remains unclear how many people still need rescuing however.

On Tuesday, the agency said two additional helicopters had joined in Billings to assist search and rescue attempts and that soldiers had been deployed to Red Lodge. The towns are among the worst affected.

Hospital stranded by floods

16:15 , Gino Spocchia

A hospital in the Montana town of Livingston has reportedly closed to new patients because of flooding stretching as far as the driveway, accordiong to Montana Public Radio.

“The past 24 hours have been crazy to be honest,” a spokesperson for Livingston HealthCare, Lindsey Pennell, told the station on Tuesday.

The building is undamaged and health officials have chosen to stay inside the hospital because there is no safe entrance or exit. The remainder of Livingston has also seen extensive flooding.

Flooding in the town of Livingston, Montana (AP)
Flooding in the town of Livingston, Montana (AP)

Lt. Gov. visits Red Lodge while governor out of state

15:55 , Gino Spocchia

Montana’s lieutenant governor Kristen Juras visited Red Lodge on Tuesday as governor Greg Gianforte remains out of the state, as his office said on Tuesday.

Ms Juras, who signed the governor’s disaster declaration as acting governor, was photographed with the Montana Red Cross in the southern Montana town, where some of the worst flooding has been seen,

The Red Cross has set-up evacuation shelters in multiple towns.

Tourists and residents stranded in Gardiner

15:32 , Gino Spocchia

In Gardiner, a town near Yellowstone’s northern entrances, both residents and tourists have been effectively stranded by the floodwater.

Visitors sheltering in motels have been seen wandering the streets of the tourist town, which has seen roads swamped and homes destroyed, reports said.

Gardiner resident Victoria Britton told The Washington Post that by early Monday morning, the river had claimed about 10 feet of the bank in front of their home, wiping out her garden.

Water levels are still at record high levels, the National Weather Service has said.

Ms Britton said she and her husband gathered as many belongings as possible into three vehicles before moving into a motorhome on the other side of Highway 89, which passes the southern Montana town.

Reports also say at least two pregnant women have been airlifted by helicopter from Gardiner since the flooding began.

Town had trout swimming through Main Street

15:07 , Gino Spocchia

Floodwater swamped the main thoroughfare in Red Lodge, leaving trout swimming in the street a day later, the Associated Press reported.

At least 200 homes were flooded in the southern Montana town and the nearby town of Fromberg as a result of the floodwaters on Monday.

In Red Lodge, a town of 2,100 that’s a popular location for Yellowstone visitors, a creek running through town burst its banks – leading to houses submerged, telephone polls toppled and other damage.

Electricity was restored by Tuesday, althoughw there is still no running water in the affected neighborhood. Some of the flooding can be seen in the image below:

A home pulled into the water in Red Lodge, Montana (AP)
A home pulled into the water in Red Lodge, Montana (AP)

Yellowstone has ‘literally and figuratively’ changed

14:40 , Gino Spocchia

The floodwaters that have damaged road infrastructure and forced 10,000 people to evacuate from Yellowstone have also changed the landscape of the national park dramatically.“The landscape literally and figuratively has changed dramatically in the last 36 hours,” said Bill Berg, a commissioner in nearby Park County, to the Associated Press.

“A little bit ironic that this spectacular landscape was create by violent geologic and hydrologic events, and it’s just not very handy when it happens while we’re all here settled on it,” he added.River levels remain at a record high and at “major flood” stage, the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, has said.

Yellowstone County Superintendent Cam Sholly added of the destruction: “I’ve heard this is a 1,000-year event, whatever that means these days. They seem to be happening more and more frequently”.

A warming climate means more flooding...

14:20 , Gino Spocchia

Extreme weather events like the Yellowstone flood are associated with a warming climate, which will likely see more frequent rain and flooding as a result of higher temperatures.

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told the Associated Press extreme weather events would be more common and that this week’s floods would not be likely “without the warming that human activity has caused”.

“Will Yellowstone have a repeat of this in five or even 50 years? Maybe not, but somewhere will have something equivalent or even more extreme,” he said.

The flooding in Montana and Wyoming comes as parts of the Midwest and East Coast experience a severe heat wave. Drought and wildfires are ongoing concerns for many regions.

Some Yellowstone attractions will likely reopen

13:45 , Gino Spocchia

The anticipated months-long closure of the northern part of the Yellowstone National Park will keep visitors from  features that include Tower Fall, Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley.

Many visitors visit those spots to see wildlife such as bears and wolves, as well as elks.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone are in the southern section of the park and are likely to be reopened, as the Associated Press reported.

Helicopter video shows extent of flood emergency

12:27 , Gino Spocchia

Dramatic video footage shot from helicopters above the flooded Yellowstone River have shown how far the damage extends throughout the 150-year-old national park.

Surging waters that have forced 10,000 people to evacuate the national park can be seen in the below video, as well as significant damage to road infrastructure.

Water levels are falling in some parts of the southern Montana and northern Wyoming area and warnings remain in place, authorities say. Montana has meanwhile made a disaster declaration.

Water levels in Billings still at ‘major flood stage'

12:20 , Gino Spocchia

The National Weather Service station in Billings, Montana, has said water levels on the Yellowstone River in the city are still at record levels, with the last recorded height at 16.02ft.

“At 330 am, the Yellowstone River in Billings remains above Major Flood stage,” the station said. “Exactly how high the river is is a bit unsure with flood waters impacting the gauge a bit at these higher levels, but have not seen a downturn trend yet. Above record levels since 4pm yesterday”.

Road closures continue in Billings

11:50 , Gino Spocchia

In Billings, a city on the Yellowstone River in southern Montana, road closures were still in place overnight as one river-level sensor malfunctioned, the sheriff’s office said.

River banks were holding on Tuesday night and water levels west of Billings on the Yellowstone River are dropping, the sheriff’s office added. The National Weather Serivce says water levels in Billings continue to remain at record levels.

Aerial images shared by the sheriff’s office on Facebook showed the flooding extending throughout Billings, which is home to museums and other attractions popular with visitors to the Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone closure could last months

11:15 , Gino Spocchia

While water levels are receding in and around Yellowstone National Park, the northern entrances of the park may stay shut for months and well into the summer.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly told the Associated Press that many of the entrances could remain closed for a week, but the northern entrances – which have seen the worst of the flooding – could be shut for much longer.

Summer is typically the busiest time for Yellowstone National Park, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Below is an image of a western entrance from the park’s webcam:

Entrances to Yellowstone National Park have been closed (AP)
Entrances to Yellowstone National Park have been closed (AP)

Montana National Guard carrying out rescues

10:33 , Gino Spocchia

The US National Guard has been among the agencies to respond to flooding in the Yellowstone area with helicopters from the Montana National Guard (MTNG) deployed to Roscoe and Cooke City, where 12 people were evacuated on Monday.

On Tuesday, the MTNG said it was also called to an area of Rosebud Lake for another search and rescue effort. More helicopter rescues could be carried out across the state.

Vacation turns nightmare for Omaha couple

09:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A simple vacation for an Omaha couple turned into a nightmare after they got stuck in Montana due to floods in Yellowstone National Park.

Max Ridgway said what he saw was something out of a movie and he never thought that their vacation would take such a turn.

“I never thought this stuff still happened. I never knew that highways got wiped out due to flooding,” Mr Ridgway told KETV7.

“We tried to leave town yesterday morning and we made it halfway out of town and they turned us back around because the bridge way out,” he added.

“The hotels are setting up emergency places for people to sleep at. The boy scouts came out and they’re handing out food. They have a booth out here so the community is really pulling together to accommodate everybody.”

Locals describe harrowing situation

08:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

At least 200 homes were flooded in Montana, where residents describe the situation as harrowing with water rising from a trickle to a torrent over just a few hours.

The water toppled telephone poles, knocked over fences and carved deep fissures in the ground through a neighbourhood of hundreds of houses. Power was restored by Tuesday, though there was still no running water in the affected neighbourhood.

Heidi Hoffman left early Monday to buy a sump pump in Billings, but by the time she returned her basement was full of water.

“We lost all our belongings in the basement,” Ms Hoffman said as the pump removed a steady stream of water into her muddy backyard. “Yearbooks, pictures, clothes, furniture. We are going to be cleaning up for a long time,” she told Associated Press.

Water levels receding, says sheriff’s office

07:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Water levels at the Yellowstone park should slowly recede throughout the night, the Yellowstone county sheriff’s office said on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

“The Billings Water gauge appears to be malfunctioning as of 10.30pm statistical reliable data is currently unavailable,” the sheriff’s office said.

“They are currently holding. We have been advised west of Billings river levels on both the Yellowstone and Clark Fork are dropping.”

What caused the massive flooding and mudslides in Yellowstone?

06:56 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The Yellowstone River in Corwin Springs, Montana surpassed its previous record high water level by at least two feet, according to the US Geological Survey.

The flooding was due to a combination of intense rainfall and heavy snowmelt.

By Tuesday at 9am, some parts of the park had recorded more than 1.6 inches of rain, National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Straub told WyoFile, adding that daily rainfall more than one inch is very uncommon.

And Reuters reported that the area also saw warmer temperatures over the past few days, which accelerated snowmelt from the park’s high peaks. Per US government data, the area currently has a lot of water piled up in the snowpack. Images from the park this week showed road and building damage as water poured into valleys and pushed rivers far above normal levels.

The climate crisis is expected to increase the frequency and severity of events like rainstorms in many parts of the country. Over the past few decades, more and more precipitation across the US has come via extreme one-day events, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Ethan Freedman has more.

What caused the massive flooding and mudslides in Yellowstone?

Yellowstone officials assess damage after historic floods

06:18 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Some of the worst damage happened in the northern part of the park and Yellowstone’s gateway communities in southern Montana.

National Park Service photos of northern Yellowstone showed a slide, washed-out bridges and roads undercut by churning floodwaters of the Gardner and Lamar rivers.

The flooding cut off road access to Gardiner, Montana, a town of about 900 people near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Gardner rivers, just outside Yellowstone’s busy North Entrance. Cooke City was also isolated by floodwaters and evacuations were also issued for residents in Livingston.

Officials in Park County said on Facebook Monday evening that extensive flooding throughout the county also had made drinking water unsafe in many areas. Evacuations and rescues were ongoing and officials urged people who were in a safe place to stay put overnight.

The Montana National Guard said Monday it sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help with the evacuations.

Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said rain is not in the immediate forecast, and cooler temperatures will lessen the snowmelt in coming days.“This is flooding that we’ve just never seen in our lifetimes before.”

One group of backpackers remain after deluge sparks scramble to evacuate visitors

05:45 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

All visitors except a group of backpackers have now been evacuated after Yellowstone National Park was hit by a record deluge, according to officials.

Around 10,000 tourists to the world-famous park were asked to leave after roads and bridges were washed out as “unprecedented” flooding devastated areas of southern Montana.

Superintendent Cam Sholly told reporters that just one group of campers now remains in the park’s backcountry as officials take stock of the scope of damage that has been done.

There have not been any reports of any deaths caused directly by the flooding. Authorities say it is unclear if a body found in the Yellowstone River near Bozeman, Montana, is connected to the bad weather or not.

Graeme Massie reports.

Only backpackers remain after record deluge sparks scramble to evacuate Yellowstone

Part of Yellowstone to ‘remain closed for substantial length of time’

05:11 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Authorities on Monday announced that the northern portion of the Yellowstone National Park will likely remain closed for a “substantial length of time” due to severe damage caused by the deluge.“

Visitors traveling to park soon must stay informed about current situation, roads and weather,” it said on Twitter.

Yellowstone visits hit record high in 2021

04:49 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A record number of visitors flocked to Yellowstone National Park last year despite fewer hotel rooms and campsites being available due to the Covid-19 pandemic and construction projects.

About 4.86 million visits were tallied in 2021, breaking the prior record set in 2016. It’s a million more people than visited in 2020.

Known for its wolves, bears and other wildlife and thermal features such as the Old Faithful geyser, Yellowstone will mark its 150th anniversary in 2022. It straddles the borders of northwestern Wyoming, southern Montana and eastern Idaho.

‘Adapt or die’: Get ready for floods, droughts and rising sea levels

04:00 , Josh Marcus

As the Yellowstone disaster proves, climate change will mean more flooding, and an emphasis on adaptation in addition to cutting emissions.

Last year, we had a look at the importance of readiness and climate adaptation in England, as the UK faces historic flood dangers of its own.

‘Adapt or die’: Get ready for floods and droughts, says Environment Agency

Family starts GoFundMe after house falls into river in Montana

03:34 , Josh Marcus

A family is crowdfunding relief funds after their home was swept away in historic flooding at Yellowstone National Park.

“I have always seen this kind of thing happening on the news or whatever to someone else and today I found out exactly how it feels and I understand now that it is truly overwhelming and exhausting,” the family wrote on their GoFundMe page. “I have experienced today the absolute best and worst of humanity. The concern, support and generosity from complete strangers, friends and family is absolutely amazing to me. Thank you all.”

Former Montana legislator says Yellowstone disaster shows ‘profound inequality'

03:04 , Josh Marcus

Former Montana legislator Tom Winter says the ongoing flooding and destruction in Yellowstone is a sign of “unchecked climate change” and “profound inequality” in the state of Montana.

He also noted that five families lived in a riverside house that was recorded collapsing into the river, a sign of the state’s housing problems.

“In short, it’s a Montana story. And our leaders could protect us, but won’t,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

ICMYI: Chaos and flooding continues in Yellowstone

02:34 , Josh Marcus

All visitors except a group of backpackers have now been evacuated after Yellowstone National Park was hit by a record deluge, according to officials.

Tourists to the world-famous park were asked to get out after roads and bridges were washed out as “unprecedented” flooding devastated areas of southern Montana.

Graeme Massie had this report for The Independent on what is going on.

Only backpackers remain after record deluge sparks scramble to evacuate Yellowstone

WATCH: Video shows rockslide as cars exit Yellowstone

02:04 , Josh Marcus

Historic rains and snowmelt have set off floods and mudslides across Yellowstone Park.

One visitor caught video of the chaos.

Twitter user Anne Leppold said a car in front of her was struck by a rockslide as a procession of vehicles sought to exit the park’s North Entrance.

According to park officials, all those inside Yellowstone have been evacuated except a single group of hikers.

Another bit of (non-natural) history in Yellowstone

01:44 , Josh Marcus

As floods swept across Yellowstone National Park, officials reckoned with another historic challenge: confronting the famed park’s historical links to the genocide of Native Americans.

On Tuesday, a name change went into effect, renaming the park’s Mount Doane as First People’s Mountain.

The 10,551 peak was originally named for Gustavus Doane, a US army captain who killed at least 173 Native Americans, including numerous civilians, during the so-called Marias Massacre, an attack in response to the alleged murder of a white furrier.

27 different indigenous tribes have connections to the park, which was established in part at gunpoint by the US Army, who kept native peoples off their ancestral lands.

“The big myth about Yellowstone is that it’s a pristine wilderness untouched by humanity,” University of Montana anthropology professor Doug MacDonald told the Smithsonian Magazine. “Native Americans were hunting and gathering here for at least 11,000 years. They were pushed out by the government after the park was established. The Army was brought in to keep them out, and the public was told that Native Americans were never here in the first place because they were afraid of the geysers.”

Montana governor declares state of disaster as floods strike Yellowstone and beyond

01:24 , Josh Marcus

Montana governor Greg Gianforte declared a state of disaster in response to heavy flooding that caused devastation in Yellowstone National Park and beyond throughout the last few days.

So far, the Montana National Guard has rescued 12 people by helicopter, as communities near the park like Gardiner have been partially cut off from the outside due to destroyed infrastructure.

WATCH: Video shows sections of road missing after massive Yellowstone floods

01:04 , Josh Marcus

An aerial video feed shows the extent of damage from flooding in Yellowstone National Park.

Watch below, courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Yellowstone floods are only disaster hitting West

Wednesday 15 June 2022 00:44 , Josh Marcus

As the climate crisis continues to alter the balance across a variety of natural systems, extreme weather events like the flooding in Yellowstone will only become more common.

As park officials seek to assess damage and rescue stranded visitors, many states across the country have experience climate-inflected disasters of their own.

In the Southwest, wildfires have proliferated amid high winds and dry conditions.

Meanwhile, apocalyptic wind storms tore through the Midwest.

Yellowstone: One group of backpackers remain after record deluge sparks scramble to evacuate 10,000

Wednesday 15 June 2022 00:22 , Josh Marcus

All visitors except a group of backpackers have now been evacuated after Yellowstone National Park was hit by a record deluge, according to officials.

Tourists to the world-famous park were asked to get out after roads and bridges were washed out as “unprecedented” flooding devastated areas of southern Montana.

Superintendent Cam Sholly told reporters that just one group of campers now remains in the park’s backcountry as officials take stock of the scope of damage that has been done.

Graeme Massie has the details on this breaking news story here.

Only backpackers remain after record deluge sparks scramble to evacuate Yellowstone

What caused Yellowstone to shut down?

Wednesday 15 June 2022 00:06 , Josh Marcus

A series of “unprecedented” rainstorms have created chaos inside Yellowstone National Park, which closed its gates to visitors on Monday.

The severe weather caused mudslides, with multiple roads being rendered impassible, and a bridge getting destroyed.

“Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge failures, mudslides and others issues,” park superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement.

Guests already inside the park have been evacuated, and no return date has been announced.

Catch up on the latest with our report on what’s going on inside the park.

Yellowstone to remain closed after ‘extreme’ floods tear through park

Disaster strikes Yellowstone

Wednesday 15 June 2022 00:03 , Josh Marcus

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the ongoing flooding in Yellowstone National Park.

Stick with The Independent for the latest news and updates on the critical situation.

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