Yellowstone pushes to reopen as flooded cities struggle to recover

Yellowstone National Park is aiming to reopen to tourists faster than expected after record flooding.

Ark officials said Sunday they hope to reopen most of Yellowstone within two weeks as they use an infusion of $50m (£40,909,074) of federal highway money to speed up road and bridge repairs.

There is still no timeline for restoring communications between the park and neighboring parts of Montana, where the restoration is expected to take several months.

I want to stay in Montana. I don’t know if we canMatt Holmes

In and around the Fromberg agricultural community, the Clarks Fork River flooded nearly 100 homes and severely damaged a major irrigation canal that serves many farms. The mayor of the city says that about a third of the flooded houses are beyond repair.

Near the riverbank, Lindy O’Brien’s trailer house was raised high enough to avoid serious damage. But she found water in her barns and sheds, lost some of her poultry, and saw her recently deceased parents’ house flood several feet of water.

Selected officials who came to view the devastation at Red Lodge and Gardiner—Montana’s tourist towns that serve as gateways to Yellowstone—didn’t make it to Fromberg to see its devastation.

Ms O’Brien said the lack of attention is not surprising given the city’s location away from major tourist routes.

She does not resent, but is resigned to the idea that if Fromberg recovers, then about 400 residents will have to do most of the work themselves.

Close

In and around the agricultural community of Fromberg, the Clarks Fork River flooded nearly 100 homes and badly damaged a major irrigation canal that serves many farms. (Matthew Brown/AP)

“We care about each other,” Ms O’Brien said as she and two longtime friends, Melody Murter and Eileen Rogers, combed dirt-cured objects strewn across her property.

A few blocks away, Matt Holmes combed through piles of manure and debris, but found nothing salvageable in the trailer home he shared with his wife and four children.

Mr. Holmes took the day off but said he needed to get back to his construction job as soon as possible to start making money again. Whether he can bring enough to recover is unclear. Otherwise, Mr. Holmes said that he could move the family to Louisiana, where they have relatives.

“I want to stay in Montana. I don’t know if we can,” he said.

Yellowstone will partially open at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced to leave the park when the Yellowstone and other rivers burst their banks after swelling with melting snow and several inches of rain.

At first, only those parts of the park that can be reached via its “southern loop” of roads will be open, with access to the park’s scenic backcountry restricted to day-trippers.

Close

Yellowstone will partially open at 8 am Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced to leave the park (David Goldman/AP).

Within two weeks, officials hope to reopen the north loop after previously saying it would likely remain closed during the summer season. The North Loop will give visitors access to popular attractions including Tower Fall and Mammoth Hot Springs.

They will continue to be banned from entering the Lamar Valley, which is famous for its rich wildlife, including bears, wolves and bison, which can often be seen from the side of the road.

“This will bring 75 to 80 percent of the park back to work,” National Park Service director Charles Sams said on Sunday during a visit to Yellowstone to assess the impact of the flood.

It will take much longer – perhaps years – to fully restore the two badly damaged stretches of road connecting the park to Gardiner to the north and Cook City to the northeast.