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Yellowstone park reopening after changes wrought by flood

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  • A Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen standing near a road wiped out by flooding along the Gardner River the week before, near Gardiner, Mont., June 19, 2022. Park officials said they hope to open most of the park within two weeks after it was shuttered in the wake of the floods.


    A Yellowstone National Park ranger is seen standing near a road wiped out by flooding along the Gardner River the week before, near Gardiner, Mont., June 19, 2022. Park officials said they hope to open most of the park within two weeks after it was shuttered in the wake of the floods.
    Associated Press

  • Melody Murter, right, wipes mud from a lithograph by Lindi O'Brien, left, Friday, June 17, 2022, that was partially submerged when floodwaters swamped O'Brien's neighborhood in Fromberg, Mont. Floodwaters that led to widespread damage in Yellowstone National Park caused their most severe impacts in communities outside the park.


    Melody Murter, right, wipes mud from a lithograph by Lindi O’Brien, left, Friday, June 17, 2022, that was partially submerged when floodwaters swamped O’Brien’s neighborhood in Fromberg, Mont. Floodwaters that led to widespread damage in Yellowstone National Park caused their most severe impacts in communities outside the park.
    Associated Press

  • Mud scraped from the floor of a flooded house belonging to Lindi O'Brien is seen, June 17, 2022, in Fromberg, Mont. Local officials say about 100 homes and trailers got water when the Clarks Fork River hit record levels and jumped its banks the week before.


    Mud scraped from the floor of a flooded house belonging to Lindi O’Brien is seen, June 17, 2022, in Fromberg, Mont. Local officials say about 100 homes and trailers got water when the Clarks Fork River hit record levels and jumped its banks the week before.
    Associated Press

  • Lindi O'Brien sorts through personal mementos in the barn of her parent's home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. As officials scramble to reopen Yellowstone National Park to tourists this week after record floods pounded southern Montana, some of those hardest hit in the disaster live far from the famous park's limelight and are leaning heavily on one another to pull their lives out of the mud.


    Lindi O’Brien sorts through personal mementos in the barn of her parent’s home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. As officials scramble to reopen Yellowstone National Park to tourists this week after record floods pounded southern Montana, some of those hardest hit in the disaster live far from the famous park’s limelight and are leaning heavily on one another to pull their lives out of the mud.
    Associated Press

  • Matt Holmes, right, drains a suitcase while packing up belongings with his son, Gavin, 9, as the family is forced to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Matt Holmes, right, drains a suitcase while packing up belongings with his son, Gavin, 9, as the family is forced to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Matt Holmes looks at his damaged home while packing up belongings as the family is forced to leave after severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Matt Holmes looks at his damaged home while packing up belongings as the family is forced to leave after severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Aileen Rogers helps clean out a friend's house badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Aileen Rogers helps clean out a friend’s house badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Lindi O'Brien picks up a commendation plaque to her father's police service from the barn of her parent's home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Lindi O’Brien picks up a commendation plaque to her father’s police service from the barn of her parent’s home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • A river flows through a missing section of a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Mont. Friday, June 17, 2022.


    A river flows through a missing section of a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Mont. Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Yokie Johnson prepares a takeout order at the restaurant she owns with her husband in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business. For Johnson, the business was a dream come true. She had beat cancer a few years ago, but it returned late last year in a more aggressive form and has spread across her body. "I'm not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day," she said.


    Yokie Johnson prepares a takeout order at the restaurant she owns with her husband in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business. For Johnson, the business was a dream come true. She had beat cancer a few years ago, but it returned late last year in a more aggressive form and has spread across her body. “I’m not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day,” she said.
    Associated Press

  • Yokie Johnson, right, co-owner of the restaurant, MontAsia, talks with customers Jacob and Laci Karp in Fishtail, Mont., Thursday, June 16, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business.


    Yokie Johnson, right, co-owner of the restaurant, MontAsia, talks with customers Jacob and Laci Karp in Fishtail, Mont., Thursday, June 16, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business.
    Associated Press

  • Snow capped mountains stand in the background as a detour sign directs traffic off a damaged road from severe flooding in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Snow capped mountains stand in the background as a detour sign directs traffic off a damaged road from severe flooding in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Cattle graze on a farm in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. As officials scramble to reopen Yellowstone National Park to tourists this week after record floods pounded southern Montana, some of those hardest hit in the disaster live far from the famous park's limelight and are leaning heavily on one another to pull their lives out of the mud. In the agricultural community of Fromberg the Clarks Fork River flooded almost 100 homes and badly damaged a major irrigation ditch that serves many farms in the area.


    Cattle graze on a farm in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. As officials scramble to reopen Yellowstone National Park to tourists this week after record floods pounded southern Montana, some of those hardest hit in the disaster live far from the famous park’s limelight and are leaning heavily on one another to pull their lives out of the mud. In the agricultural community of Fromberg the Clarks Fork River flooded almost 100 homes and badly damaged a major irrigation ditch that serves many farms in the area.
    Associated Press

  • A escort vehicle guides traffic through a single-lane county road after a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Mont., collapsed, causing traffic to divert, Friday, June 17, 2022.


    A escort vehicle guides traffic through a single-lane county road after a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Mont., collapsed, causing traffic to divert, Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Lindi O'Brien picks up a commendation plaque to her father's police service from the barn of her parent's home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Lindi O’Brien picks up a commendation plaque to her father’s police service from the barn of her parent’s home badly damaged by the severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Harlee Holmes, 8, cleans out her room as her family is forced to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Harlee Holmes, 8, cleans out her room as her family is forced to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Gavin Holmes, 9, left, and his brother, Tyce, 7, stand in their damaged home as the family packs up while forced to leave after severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Gavin Holmes, 9, left, and his brother, Tyce, 7, stand in their damaged home as the family packs up while forced to leave after severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Lee Johnson, center, works in the kitchen of the restaurant, MontAsia, he runs with his wife, Yokie, left, as their daughter, Rose, 15, helps out in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. A key bridge that leads to the tourist town collapsed, causing traffic to divert through a single-lane county road. Johnson says the limited access is costing them dearly. "When we opened for the first time after the flood, it started just dead. And you start to have that sense of dread creep in. Did I do all this, did I sink all this money in, have I started this business and people can't even get here anymore?" Johnson said.


    Lee Johnson, center, works in the kitchen of the restaurant, MontAsia, he runs with his wife, Yokie, left, as their daughter, Rose, 15, helps out in Fishtail, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. A key bridge that leads to the tourist town collapsed, causing traffic to divert through a single-lane county road. Johnson says the limited access is costing them dearly. “When we opened for the first time after the flood, it started just dead. And you start to have that sense of dread creep in. Did I do all this, did I sink all this money in, have I started this business and people can’t even get here anymore?” Johnson said.
    Associated Press

  • Harlee Holmes, 8, right, helps her bother, Creek, 3, put his shoes on as the family packs up to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Harlee Holmes, 8, right, helps her bother, Creek, 3, put his shoes on as the family packs up to leave their home left damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Portable toilets brought in for residents after a sewer line broke during the severe flooding sit outside homes as a tractor passes through Edgar, Mont. Friday, June 17, 2022.


    Portable toilets brought in for residents after a sewer line broke during the severe flooding sit outside homes as a tractor passes through Edgar, Mont. Friday, June 17, 2022.
    Associated Press

  • Yokie Johnson turns off a lamp at the end of the night at MontAsia, the restaurant she runs with her husband in Fishtail, Mont., Thursday, June 16, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business. For Johnson, the business was a dream come true. She had beat cancer a few years ago, but it returned late last year in a more aggressive form and has spread across her body. "I'm not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day," she said.


    Yokie Johnson turns off a lamp at the end of the night at MontAsia, the restaurant she runs with her husband in Fishtail, Mont., Thursday, June 16, 2022. The main road into Fishtail was washed away by the recent floodwaters and Johnson worries the lack of traffic will hurt their business. For Johnson, the business was a dream come true. She had beat cancer a few years ago, but it returned late last year in a more aggressive form and has spread across her body. “I’m not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day,” she said.
    Associated Press

  • WAPITI, Wyo. — Visitors will return to a changed landscape in Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday as it partially reopens following record floods that reshaped the park’s rivers and canyons, wiped out numerous roads and left some areas famous for their wildlife viewing inaccessible, possibly for months to come.

    Park managers are raising the gates at 8 a.m. Wednesday at three of Yellowstone’s five entrances for the first time since June 13, when 10,000 visitors were ordered out after rivers across northern Wyoming and southern Montana surged over their banks following a torrent of rainfall that accelerated the spring snowmelt.

    Some of the premier attractions at America’s first national park will again be viewable, including Old Faithful – the legendary geyser that shoots towering bursts of steaming water almost like clockwork more than a dozen times a day.

    But the bears, wolves and bison that roam the wild Lamar Valley and the thermal features around Mammoth Hot Springs will remain out of reach. The wildlife-rich northern half of the park will be shuttered until at least early July, and key routes into the park remain severed near the Montana tourist towns of Gardiner, Red Lodge and Cooke City.

    It’s unknown how many visitors will show up in the flooding’s immediate aftermath. Park managers had been bracing for throngs as the park celebrated its 150th anniversary a year after it tallied a record 4.9 million visits.

    ‘We get a million people a month in Yellowstone in July and August,’ Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said. ‘You can’t get a full visitation in half the park.’


            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            

     

    To keep visitor numbers down while repairs continue, park managers will use a system that only allows cars with even-numbered last digits on their license plates to enter on even days, while vehicles with odd-numbered last numbers can come on odd days.

    Groups of visitors traveling together in different cars are exempt from the license plate system as well as people with reservations at campgrounds and hotels in the park.

    If traffic along the park’s 400 miles (644 kilometers) of roads becomes unmanageable, Sholly said officials will impose a reservation system to enter the park.

    The reopening comes as officials in Yellowstone are still tallying the scope of the damage. Based on other national park disasters, it could take years and carry a steep price tag to rebuild. It’s an environmentally sensitive landscape with a huge underground plumbing system that feeds into the park’s geysers, hot springs and other thermal features. Construction season only runs from the spring thaw until the first snowfall, a narrow window that means some roads could receive only temporary fixes this year.

            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            

     

    That’s turned some Montana communities into dead ends instead of being gateways to Yellowstone, a blow to their tourism-dependent economies. They’re also still struggling to clean up damage to several hundred homes and businesses that were swamped by flooding on the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Clarks Fork rivers.

    In Red Lodge, one of those gateway towns cut off from the park, most businesses are open even as flood cleanup continues. The Montana Department of Transportation is beginning repairs to the road between Red Lodge and the scenic Beartooth Highway and the National Park Service is working to restore access to some areas in the northern part of the park.

    ‘We have to remain optimistic, but we also have to remain realistic that there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of moving pieces to make it happen,’ said Tim Weamer, who does marketing for the Red Lodge Chamber of Commerce.

    ‘We’re optimistic that we’ll survive,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to have the summer we were hoping for.’

    For others the rebound may come faster. Yellowstone tour guide Derek Draimin said he’s fully booked up Wednesday with four groups that will be headed into the park.

    ‘I think there will be cars stacked up trying to get in, to be the first people to enter the park after the thousand-year flood,’ he said.

    Draimin lost about 25 tours because of the flood and says fewer visitors might come thinking that the park is badly damaged. But with most of the park expected to be accessible within weeks, Draimin said it’s also possible business could get a bump as tourists who can’t get in through the park’s northern entrances get funneled through West Yellowstone, where his company, Yellowstone Adventure Tours, is based.

    ‘I have no idea what to expect,” he said. ‘I could see both things happening.’

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    Hanson reported from Helena, Montana.

            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            
            



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