Video: Historic flood forces Yellowstone to evacuate tourists
On Monday, June 13, the Yellowstone River burst at the seams with historic flows of raging, chocolate brown runoff water. The roaring current wiped out the Tom Miner Bridge outside Gardiner before noon. Floodwaters are eating away at paved roads, mud and landslides are blocking means of travel, and some roads are covered in up to 3 feet of water.
All entrances to the park are closed and some areas have lost power. Authorities are currently working to evacuate stranded residents and visitors.
Yellowstone’s most recent daily flow was measured at Corwin Springs, just north of Gardiner, with a flow of 48,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) according to data collected by the USGS. By way of comparison, the average flow rates for this zone stabilize around 12,000 cfs. The closest record to this level in over 100 years was in 1918 at 30,000 cfs. This makes it a flood that only happens once a century.
Chart via USGS.
Because the rivers are roaring so out of control right now, some gauges may be out of order or reading incorrectly. Click here to see updated readings for Yellowstone streams around Corwin Springs and here to check readings near Livingston.
Small rivers like the Gardner River and the Lamar River that run through the park also have outsized flows and damage infrastructure. You can follow their respective rates here and here.
“Due to record flooding in the park and more predicted rainfall, we have made the decision to close Yellowstone to all incoming visits,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a news release. “Our first priority has been to evacuate the northern section of the park where we have multiple road and bridge ruptures, mudslides and other issues. The community of Gardiner is currently isolated and we are working with the county and the State of Montana to provide needed support to residents, who are currently without water or power in some areas.
The most severe damage is currently affecting the northern areas of the park and surrounding areas, including Lamar Valley, Gardiner and Red Lodge. Because rainfall and runoff levels aren’t slowing, park officials and emergency responders are working to evacuate the entirety of America’s first national park.
“Due to forecasts of higher flood levels in the South Loop areas of the park, in addition to issues with the water and sewage systems, we will begin moving South Loop visitors out of the park. park later in the day in coordination with our company in the park. partners,” Sholly said. “We won’t know when the park will reopen until the floodwaters subside and we are able to assess the damage throughout the park.”
Major floods are rare in this part of the country. Normally plagued by drought, fishermen, hunters and farm workers praised the incredibly wet spring that currently adorns the arid landscape. Snow cover is around 200% of average levels in many areas. Is there such a thing as too much of a good thing? Maybe when it starts washing the roads and bridges, but I’d bet the fish don’t care too much. The watershed may be saturated right now, but it won’t last forever.
Currently, ensuring the safety of isolated people is of the utmost importance. Roads can be cleared and rebuilt, and routes can be rescheduled.
“It’s likely that the North Loop will be closed for a long time,” Sholly concluded. “I appreciate the efforts of the Yellowstone team and partners to safely evacuate areas of the park and our community gateway partners who are assisting us through this major event. We appreciate the support offered by the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the governors of Montana and Wyoming.”
Image and video of presentation via National Park Service.