Yellowstone communities rebuild after historic flooding


(NewsNation) — Communities near Yellowstone National Park are slowly beginning to rebuild following unprecedented flooding that tore through the area, wiping out miles of roads and bridges and swamping homes.

Yellowstone remains closed, with more than 10,000 visitors being driven out of the nation’s oldest park earlier this week. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, however.

West Yellowstone Mayor Travis Watt said the town was lucky they didn’t face the damage the north side of the area saw.

“We’ve been fortunate in that regard,” he said. “All the businesses and the communities are open, we’re just waiting for the park to open.”

Watt said plans are in place to open the southern part of the park sometime next week, albeit with some restrictions. Still, the north end, which includes Towerfall and the bears and wolves of Lamar Valley, could stay closed for months after sections of major roads around them were washed away or buried in rockfall.

According to the local newspaper, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Yellowstone National Park officials said the road connecting the northern gate was heavily damaged in flooding, and is unlikely to be rebuilt in the same spot.

“We’re waiting for more information and guidance from the Park Service,” Watt said.
“They’re doing a great job working hard and around the clock to take care of those folks to the north, but also to open up to visitors into the communities.”

Although it’s a small town, there are lots of fun activities for people to do at West Yellowstone, Watt said. But he knows most people coming to town are going to see Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s famous geyser, and the National Park itself.

“We’re just the beginning of our summer season, but it’s a little quiet around town right now,” Watt said, adding that, “There’s still a lot of people sticking with us throughout this.”

A house sits in Rock Creek after floodwaters washed away a road and a bridge in Red Lodge, Mont., Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

“Communities like ours are real resilient,” he said. “It’ll be short for us.”

For some communities in the north, though, Watt said there could be a “huge impact” on the dollars they’re able to bring in through tourism. The draining of visitors has especially become major concern for businesses in towns like Gardiner and Red Lodge that rely on tourists passing by.

“We’ll have to wait and see. It’s going to take a lot of help and work to help some of those other communities,” he said. “We’ll get through in our community. I think we’re gonna be just fine, but it does have an impact.”

President Joe Biden declared a disaster in Montana, ordering federal assistance be made available.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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