Yellowstone National Park superintendent provides update on park flooding

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MAMMOTH – During a call with Yellowstone National Park employees and the public, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly urged those on the call to leave the Gardiner area as soon as possible, as long as conditions permit. He said it’s unclear when there might be more road damage blocking the road. He said the Mammoth to Gardiner road in the park is closed for the foreseeable future.

Officials said Tuesday that a road has been opened in Gardiner to allow community supplies and tourists to exit.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office, the road leading into town at the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park, will be open to local traffic only.

yellowstone national park

Photos released by Yellowstone National Park on 06/14/2022

Sholly also said Mammoth and Roosevelt accommodations will likely be closed for the rest of the season. Concession companies were asked to evacuate their employees. He noted that the power had been out at Mammoth, Canyon, Lake and Norris for 24 hours. He says the park is working with Northwestern Energy to restore power. He also said there were serious sewage issues to be addressed at both Mammoth and Gardiner.

Sholly said the old Gardiner Road that leads from the park’s north entrance to Mammoth is being prepared for traffic. But he notes that this is a rough gravel road and will require substantial improvement. He added that it is unclear what kind of traffic it will be able to handle. In the meantime, emergency and supply vehicles attempt to use the old road. He noted that the current paved road from Gardiner to Mammoth is heavily damaged and will be closed for the foreseeable future. However, the park is committed to repairing and reopening the road along the existing alignment.

According to Sholly, officials are today completing evacuations of the southern portion of the park and verifying backcountry sites. He says it may be necessary to fly some campers stranded in the backcountry.

Sholly said it was unclear when the southern part of the park would reopen, but said when it does, entry permits may be required, at least on a temporary basis.

Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler said at noon Tuesday that the road is now open in Gardiner for local traffic and services only.

The speed limit through the canyon and on East River Road will be set at 35 MPH in areas crews are still working on.

Park officials will meet with officials from Cody, West Yellowstone and Gardiner as soon as possible to discuss efforts to provide support for visitors and employees and when tours can resume.

Park officials decided on Monday to empty the entire park of visitors, including a complete backcountry closure, and five parts may be blocked off. Park officials said flights would take place on Tuesday to try to make contact with these groups.

In a social media post, a summary of what is going to happen over the next few days was released by the Office of the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park:

If you’re planning on visiting YNP this summer, we encourage you to reconsider and work with Xanterra and other accommodations, activities, car rentals, and more. to modify them.

Here are the short and long term goals we have set ourselves and will focus on as a recovery park:

• Ensure the safety of employees and visitors • Implement the complete visitor closure of the North Loop (completed yesterday)
• Implement complete visitor closure of the South Loop (completion target underway today)
• Implement full closure of backcountry visitors (ongoing) • Assess backcountry evacuation needs (start today – assess the number of people in the backcountry, evacuation plan)
• Upgrading the old Gardiner Road (work is expected to begin today or tomorrow once the precipitation subsides. It is planned to use this road for administrative travel and to evacuate visitors to Gardiner if Highway 89 remains impractical)
• Restore power to the northern sites of Yellowstone and Canyon, Lake and Norris (Northwestern Energy is currently working on this and says it should be restored today)
• Evacuate visitors from Gardiner via Old Gardiner Road if necessary (probably Thursday or Friday if possible and if Hwy 89 is not open)
• Support Gardiner residents with food, water and medicine resupply (we will work with Gardiner Market and others to determine community needs. We can bring supply trucks to Mammoth and transport supplies to Gardiner using fleet aircraft and potentially National Guard air support; working with county and state)
• Support isolated NPS residents at the NE entrance with air resupply if necessary (staff at the NE entrance are sheltering in place, we are in contact with them and will assess their needs to provide assistance. They are cut off of Cooke City)
• Provide support to Cooke City residents as needed
• Mitigation of sewage impacts from destroyed sewer lines at Gardiner and Mammoth (in progress)
• Move all employees from Mammoth-based dealerships to properties in the South Loop (this is happening today and tomorrow)
• Stop and redirect all incoming employees hired to work at Mammoth or Tower who have not yet arrived
• Supporting employees who have lost their homes in Gardiner (multiple actions) • Preparing field crews to travel to Yellowstone and assisting with damage assessment when the water recedes (mix of Federal Highways, NPS and other )
• Prepare a strategy for the reservation system for the South Loop for the rest of the year (we will not allow full visitation to the South Loop when it reopens and are working on options to control the number of visitors who can enter the park; the south loop will probably not be open for another 5 days minimum)
• Develop a long-term reconstruction strategy based on damage assessments; funding strategies to be determined with the region/WASO/DOI
• Continue substantive communications with Gateway Communities, Congressional and DOI/NPS leaders

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