Floods roared through Yellowstone National Park this week, forcing the evacuation of 10,000 visitors.
Photos and satellite images depict homes swept away, roads pulverized, and bridges gone.
The park is closed, and damaged roads may need to be rerouted.
Yellowstone National Park, famous for geysers and wide open spaces, closed for the first time in 34 years this week as floods inundated its roads.
The first national park in the US, located in Montana and Wyoming, is contending with severe infrastructure damage after heavy rains and snowmelt caused the Yellowstone River and its tributaries to swell.
The floods forced the National Park Service to completely evacuate Yellowstone, shepherding 10,000 people out of wilderness, campsites, and settlements across the park, which is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
“It’s just the scariest river ever,” Kate Gomez, a tourist who was visiting from Santa Fe, New Mexico, told The Associated Press, adding, “Anything that falls into that river is gone.”
There were no known injuries or deaths as of Tuesday, according to a statement from the park. The entire park is temporarily closed.
“The rainfall rates never really got all that high,” Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told Insider. “It was more of a prolonged period of steady rainfall, and then you combine that with the snow melt, and you got these pretty significant rises on the river.”
Satellite images give a bird’s-eye view of the damage. The following image shows a road alongside the Gardiner River, south of the park’s northern entrance, just a few weeks ago.
Another image, captured on Wednesday, shows sections of that road completely washed out.
The National Park Service shared the following helicopter video of that river flooding on Monday.
Northern regions of Yellowstone will probably remain closed for the rest of the season, according to the park statement.
Southern regions could reopen as early as Monday, since they weren’t so heavily impacted by the flooding, according to the local paper The Casper Star-Tribune.
“Many sections of road in these areas are completely gone,” the statement said. “It is probable that road sections in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season due to the time required for repairs.”
More satellite images reveal a bridge washed out over the swollen, churning Yellowstone River. Here’s that bridge before the flooding.
And here’s what it looked like on Wednesday.
Some nearby towns were without power as of Tuesday, the park’s statement said.
Several homes washed away in the rivers.
“Yesterday I was in shock. Today I’m just in intense sadness,” Shelley Blazina, who owned a cabin that was swept up in the floodwaters, told the AP.
As of Thursday, the floodwaters had moved downstream to Billings, Montana, and forced the city to shut down its water-treatment plant.
“None of us planned a 500-year flood event on the Yellowstone when we designed these facilities,” Debi Meling, the local public-works director, told the AP.
Forecasters expect more rain in Yellowstone on Saturday or Sunday, and the National Park Service said there could still be more flooding.
Connecting any single weather event to climate change requires additional research. Globally, though, experts expect floods to become more frequent and severe as the planet’s average temperatures rise.
The floods may have permanently changed Yellowstone’s landscape, rerouting one river and forcing park managers to rebuild roads further away from the water, the AP reported.
“It’s certainly an impressive event there, and not one that you will see often,” Chenard said.
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