The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Outside a closed Yellowstone, a town is cut off by massive flooding

The highway between Gardiner and Mammoth in Montana is washed out, trapping tourists in Gardiner on June 13. Historic flooding has damaged roads and bridges as well as homes. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette/AP)

GARDINER, Mont. — There was no way out of here on Tuesday. This town, about seven miles south of Corwin Springs and situated just outside of the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park, was inundated when heavy rain fell on already flooded creeks and rivers over the weekend, wiping out roads and stranding visitors and residents.

Motels lowered their rates to accommodate the stranded. No one’s sure when they’ll be able to leave, or when supplies can be delivered to gas stations, restaurants or the town’s only grocery store. Trapped within the flooded surroundings, visitors wandered the streets — some standing along a highway as a waterfront home that housed park employees washed into the Yellowstone River. In many areas, the water is unsafe to drink, and many remain without power.

Yellowstone National Park officials temporarily closed all five entrances to visitors after the weekend’s unprecedented rainfall. At Corwin Springs, the river reached 13.88 feet at its highest point on Monday — surpassing the previous record of 11.5 feet set in 1918 — before receding in the late afternoon.

More devastation is still possible: There’s additional rain in the forecast, and high temperatures are expected to continue to melt snowpack in the coming days.

Flooding has been reported across Yellowstone, as images emerge of roads that have been wiped out in the park’s northeast section. The towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City in Montana are flooded, and all of the bridges have been decimated.

The park will remain closed through at least Wednesday while park officials assess the damage, leaving visitors stuck in Gardiner.

As Montana reeled from floods, Gov. Gianforte was nowhere to be found

Annette Chaplin, visiting from Deep River, Ontario, is scheduled to fly out of Seattle early Thursday. She’s hopeful she can make it, but said she’s feeling lucky in the meantime to have electricity, food and a warm place to stay.

“I am just struck by the people that are positive, polite and upbeat,” she said.

Local officials are encouraging people to stay put and to be patient as they assess the damage. At least one local helicopter company is offering to transport a handful of people and their luggage to Bozeman, Mont., for $2,800.

Meanwhile, residents are starting to assess the extent of the damage.

Victoria Britton, a longtime resident of the big waterfront house for Yellowstone park workers, said that by early Monday morning, the river had claimed about 10 feet of the bank in front of their home, wiping out her garden.

“I kept looking out the window, watching the bank erode,” Britton said, through tears.

Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont., experienced record rainfall and extensive flooding on June 13. (Video: The Washington Post)

Britton and her husband, park employee TJ Britton, loaded as many of their belongings as possible into three vehicles before moving into their motor home nearby across Highway 89.

Other residents of the house, which had five apartments for park employees, gathered up their belongings in a rush to evacuate. A nearby RV park was partially evacuated as well. Throughout the day, personal effects, coolers, refrigerators and tires filled the river.

Britton had left just in time. After evacuating, she watched a video of her home going into the river.

“It was our own little sanctuary; nobody knew it was there,” she said, tears flowing. “Now the rest of our life is in the river.”

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