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Park officials warn Yellowstone flooding could be ‘thousand-year event’

(The Hill) – Extreme flooding in Yellowstone National Park could constitute a “thousand-year event,” National Park Service officials said on a press call Tuesday evening.

“This isn’t my words, but I’ve heard this is a thousand-year event,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “From what I understand, one of the highest cubic feet per second ratings for the Yellowstone River recorded in the ’90s was at 31,000 CFS and Sunday night we were at 51,000 CFS.”

  • In this photo provided by the National Park Service, is high water in the Gardiner River along the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana, that washed out part of a road on Monday, June 13, 2022. (National Park Service via AP)
  • In this photo provided by the National Park Service, is a washed out bridge from flooding at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. (National Park Service via AP)
  • In this photo provided by the National Park Service, is a large rockslide on North Entrance Road in Gardner Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, Montana on Monday, June 13, 2022. All the entrances to Yellowstone National Park were temporarily closed Monday due to substantial flooding , rockslides and mudslides on roadways from recent unprecedented amounts of rainfall and flooding, park officials said. (National Park Service via AP)
  • In this image from a National Park Service webcam, is the empty west entrance to Yellowstone National Park, in Montana on Monday, June 13, 2022. (National Park Service via AP)
  • In this image provided by Sam Glotzbach, the flooding Yellowstone River undercuts the river bank, threatening a house and a garage in Gardiner, Mont., on June 13, 2022. (Sam Glotzbach via AP)
  • In this photo provided by Sam Glotzbach, the fast-rushing Yellowstone River flooded what appeared to be a small boathouse in Gardiner, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022, just north of Yellowstone National Park. (Sam Glotzbach via AP)
  • The highway between Gardiner and Mammoth in Montana is washed out trapping tourists in Gardiner, as historic flooding damages roads and bridges and floods homes along area rivers on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)
  • The Boulder River south of Big Timber floods roads and homes on Monday, June 13, 2022, as major flooding swept away at least one bridge, washed away roads and set off mudslides in Yellowstone National Park in Montana. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)
  • Flooding from the Yellowstone River is seen in front of Livingston HealthCare’s hospital in Livingston, Montana, on Monday evening, June 13, 2022. Livingston HealthCare evacuated its patients and staff on Monday because water over the driveway made access to the building unsafe. While an urgent care clinic remained open, emergency patients were being diverted to other facilities. (Dwight Harriman/Livingston Enterprise via AP)
  • This photo provided by Katherine Schoolitz shows flooding in Red Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. Raging floodwaters that pulled houses into rivers and forced rescues by air and boat began to slowly recede Tuesday across the Yellowstone region, leaving tourists and others stranded after roads and bridges were knocked out by torrental rains that swelled waterways to record levels. (Katherine Schoolitz via AP)
  • This photo provided by Katherine Schoolitz shows flood waters in Red Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. Raging floodwaters that pulled houses into rivers and forced rescues by air and boat began to slowly recede Tuesday across the Yellowstone region, leaving tourists and others stranded after roads and bridges were knocked out by torrental rains that swelled waterways to record levels. (Katherine Schoolitz via AP)
  • This photo provided by Katherine Schoolitz shows flood waters rise around a house in Red Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. Raging floodwaters that pulled houses into rivers and forced rescues by air and boat began to slowly recede Tuesday across the Yellowstone region, leaving tourists and others stranded after roads and bridges were knocked out by torrental rains that swelled waterways to record levels. (Katherine Schoolitz via AP)
  • This photo provided by Katherine Schoolitz shows flooding in Red Lodge, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. Raging floodwaters that pulled houses into rivers and forced rescues by air and boat began to slowly recede Tuesday across the Yellowstone region, leaving tourists and others stranded after roads and bridges were knocked out by torrental rains that swelled waterways to record levels. (Katherine Schoolitz via AP)
  • Floodwaters inundate property near the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River in between Edgar and Fromberg, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)
  • Floodwaters inundate property along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River in between Edgar and Fromberg, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)
  • Floodwaters inundate property near the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River in between Edgar and Fromberg, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)
  • A road is closed from floodwaters along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)
  • Floodwaters are seen along the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River near Bridger, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)
  • Floodwaters from the the Clarks Fork Yellowstone River surround a home near Bridger, Mont., on Monday, June 13, 2022. The flooding across parts of southern Montana and northern Wyoming forced the indefinite closure of Yellowstone National Park just as a summer tourist season that draws millions of visitors annually was ramping up. (AP Photo/Emma H. ​​Tobin)

Sholly noted that despite the historic nature of the flooding, such events “seem to be happening more and more frequently.”

Road conditions are particularly dangerous, Sholly said, as the park approaches its peak tourism season. Flooding on Highway 89 across the Montana border cut off access to the town of Gardner, he said, and while access has since been restored, several thousand park visitors were stranded in Gardner along with residents at one point.

Sholly added that the road between Gardner and Cooke City, Mt., will likely remain closed for the remainder of the season.

Park County, Mont., Commissioner Bill Berg added the flooding had put some basic services on the county side at risk as well in parts of the county that can only be accessed through Yellowstone.

“We can’t provide law enforcement services out there right now. Public health services, we can’t get out there to pick up the garbage. Some of this stuff is pretty basic,” he said. “We can’t get out there to help clean up the streets because they have their own flood event.”

A combination of heavy rain and mountain snowpack led to extreme flooding Monday that forced the park to close first its northern entrances Monday, then all of the remaining entrances hours later.

As of Tuesday, park officials said the entrances would not reopen until Wednesday at the earliest. Much of the road leading to the northern entry appeared to have been washed away in video taken by NPS helicopters.

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