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Yellowstone National Park closes entrances, residents evacuate Red Lodge as floods sweep across Montana

 High water levels in Gardner River alongside the North Entrance Road
National Park Service
High water levels in Gardner River alongside the North Entrance Road

Severe storms across Montana over the weekend and into Monday forced some residents to evacuate and prompted a rare closure of all entrances to Yellowstone National Park.

Residents in parts of Livingston were under a pre-evacuation order Monday afternoon, with the Livingston City Fire Department advising people in the eastern part of town near the Yellowstone River to "make preparations for evacuation" because of a high chance of flooding.

The Montana Red Cross has opened a shelter in Bozeman at Hope Lutheran Church on Graf Street.

In south-central Montana, flooding in Red Lodge swamped basements, washed out bridges and prompted evacuations as water rushed through town, including its downtown area.

Red Lodge Fire Chief Tom Kuntz said in a Facebook live video early Monday morning that water had breached several points along the banks of the creek that runs along Red Lodge’s downtown.

“We saw the sidewalk just north of the Red Box Car [restaurant] fall into the creek suddenly,” he said. “Fortunately, no one was in the area of that sidewalk.”

Red Lodge Community Church served as an evacuation spot Sunday night before the basement flooded.

“We were not prepared for this by any means whatsoever, and we still don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Pastor Pam Peterson told YPR. “So that causes more anxiety.”

Rock Creek floods part of Red Lodge on Monday.
Courtesy Sandra Haisler
Rock Creek floods part of Red Lodge on Monday.

Red Lodge has since set up an evacuation spot at the Carbon County Fairgrounds.

A flood warning remains in effect for the area until 6 p.m. Tuesday. The National Weather Service reports there is “unprecedented flooding” at the Clarks Fork on the Yellowstone River at Edgar, south of Laurel, and near Belfry, just east of Red Lodge.

NWS said Monday morning the river was cresting three feet above the previous record set in 1981 and 2020.

A flash flood watch is also in effect for the Robertson Draw burn area south of Red Lodge. NWS says “Excessive rainfall could trigger flash flooding of low-lying areas, and debris flows” around the site of the fire that burned nearly 30,000 acres last year.

Carbon Alert says sandbagging materials are available in the following locations:

  • County Shop in Bridger - 22 Old Mine Rd
  • County Shop in Joliet - 202 State Street
  • County Shop in Red Lodge - 1225 White Ave S
  • Town of Bridger Shop - 300 E Carbon Ave
  • Town of Fromberg Shop - Call Public Works - 406-425-2400

"Unprecedented" situation along the Yellowstone
NWS said heavy rain on the snowpack over the Beartooth/Absaroka mountains "resulted in unprecedented rises" on the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs and Livingston. Flooding pushed the river to its highest recorded levels at Corwin Springs, and it “continues to rise,” the NWS reported Monday.

Yellowstone National Park announced Monday morning that all entrances to the park are temporarily closed due to flooding, rockslides and overall hazardous conditions. YNP said it was working to evacuate all visitors from the park.

"We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we're able to assess the damage throughout the park," park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. "It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks closed portions of Missouri Headwaters State Park Monday and was also working to evacuate and close all fishing access sites on the upper Yellowstone River.

In response to the flooding across the state, the Montana National Guard sent a helicopter to Roscoe, west of Red Lodge, and one to Cooke City north of Yellowstone National Park to help with search and rescue efforts.

Copyright 2022 Yellowstone Public Radio. To see more, visit Yellowstone Public Radio.

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