YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — During a virtual press conference this afternoon, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said they are still not sure how extensive the flood damage is or when they are going to reopen the park.
“The billion dollar question is ‘What’s the damage?”‘ Sholly said. “The answer is we don’t know exactly yet. The water is extremely high and we are not putting teams in harms way at this point.”
More than 100 media outlets attended the conference and Sholly said he is not sure how much damage the recent flooding has done. He said they will have to wait until the water subsides, which may take until sometime next week. They are also trying to determine when they can reopen the Southern Loop, which would include Norris Canyon down. As for opening the Northern Loop, Sholly wasn’t sure if and when it would reopen this season, but said it would be closed for an extended amount of time based on all the damage.
According to Sholly, on Sunday night, the park received 3-4 inches of rain accompanied with snow melting which caused the flooding. The Montana cities of Gardiner and Cooke City, are both being impacted. Montana Park County Commissioner Bill Berg said the city uses the park’s roads as an access point to Crooke City, so it is basically stranded right now.
The road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Gardiner has received the most damage, and Lamar Valley to Cooke City is damaged as well. The North and Northeast entrances will remain closed. Sholly is also thinking the entire Northern Loop may remained closed for the rest of the season, which is the end of October, but he wants to assess the damage first. If the Northern Loop is closed, gates would be shut at Canyon Village and Norris.
The road between Gardiner and Cooke City will probably remain closed for the season due to extensive damage, while Mammoth Hotel may also remain closed for the season due to waste-water issues. They are also going to check all of the infrastructure and waste-water facilities throughout the park prior to opening the Southern Loop.
As for structural damages, an employee housing unit that housed six employees near Gardiner went into the Yellowstone River last night. It floated on the river for about 5 miles, he said. While the employees were evacuated, they did lose a considerable amount of personal items.
“As of this morning, all visitors are out of Yellowstone,” Sholly said.
This included roughly 20,000 or more people, however around 12 parties are still in the back-country. They have made contact will all parties in the backcountry and they are fine at this time, Sholly said. Right now, there is only one back-country group in the Northern Loop. Thankfully, no employees or visitors were injured in the flooding.
As for power, it should be restored in the Park by the end of today.
Both Sholly and Berg are still concerned about potential flooding this weekend, since another rain storm is anticipated and high temperatures will continue to melt the snowpack.