Record floods and rockslides caused by an unexpected burst of torrential rainfall forced the park superintendent to close all five gates to Yellowstone National Park on Monday, the start of the summer visitor season.

The whole park, which spans portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, will be closed to visitors, including those with hotel and camping reservations, until authorities examine damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure on Wednesday.

The closures come as Yellowstone prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary, and as local businesses largely reliant on tourism were hoping for a resurgence after the previous two summers’ COVID-19 travel restrictions.

For the first time since a series of deadly wildfires in 1988, all five park gates were blocked to entering vehicles. The National Park Service said it was attempting to remove tourists and personnel who remained in different places, including on Yellowstone’s hardest-hit northern slope.

“It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time,” park superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement.

According to the National Park Service, the “gateway” city of Gardiner, Montana, just outside the park’s northern border and home to many of Yellowstone’s staff, was blocked off by a mudslide to the north and washed-out road surfaces to the south.

The Park Service published aerial film showing significant portions of the winding North Entrance Road between Gardiner and the park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, ripped away by rising floods along the Gardner River – washouts that would likely take months to properly rebuild.

Power outages were reported across the park, and early assessments revealed that multiple routes were swept away or covered with boulders and mud, with a number of bridges also destroyed, according to the agency.

Several highways in the park’s southern portion were on the edge of flooding, and additional rain was anticipated.

The floods and slides were caused by days of heavy rainfall in the park and continuous rains over much of the Intermountain West, which followed one of the region’s wettest springs in recent years. The park service described the park’s rains and flooding as exceptional, with the Yellowstone River exceeding record levels.

A rapid increase in summer temperatures over the last three days has also accelerated the melting and runoff of snow collected in the park’s upper altitudes from late-winter storms.

Heavy rains and quick flow from snow melt collided in the park barely two weeks after the customary Memorial Day holiday weekend opening of the U.S. summer tourist season, which accounts for the majority of Yellowstone’s yearly 4 million visitors.

Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872 as the world’s first national park and revered as one of America’s top outdoor tourist destinations, covers over 2.2 million acres (890,308 hectares) and is famous for its geysers, plentiful animals, and stunning landscape.

Source: Reuters


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