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.
All five entrances into the 2.2m acre park, which covers areas of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, are now closed for the first time in 34 years and the park will remain shut to visitors until at least Wednesday.
The last time the park was completely shut was in 1988 as it dealt with a string of wildfires.
NEW VIDEO: @YellowstoneNPS helicopter video shows current conditions of Yellowstone’s North Entrance Road through the Gardner Canyon between Gardiner, Montana, and Mammoth Hot Springs. pic.twitter.com/xHNBcnq5vS
— NBC Montana (@NBCMontana) June 13, 2022
More than five million visitors went to the park in 2021, according to data from the National Park Service, with one million visitors alone last June, which is historically one of the park’s busiest months.
The devastating flooding was caused by a combination of days of heavy rain and the rapidly melting snowpack, with the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers hitting record levels on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Montana National Guard said that it sent two helicopters to southern Montana to help with the evacuations.
The flooding cut off road access to Gardiner, a town of about 900 people, just outside the park’s North Entrance. Many of Yellowstone’s staff call the town home.
“It’s a lot of rain, but the flooding wouldn’t have been anything like this if we didn’t have so much snow,” said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana.
“This is flooding that we’ve just never seen in our lifetimes before.”