Montana Gov requests disaster declaration from Biden as Yellowstone hit with devastating floods


Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has asked President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster in his state due to the devastating flooding and destruction that has engulfed Yellowstone National Park.

Gianforte, a Republican, has asked the Democratic president, has asked for the feds to come in and investigate and hopefully alleviate some of the state’s issues resulting from what park officials called a once in a ‘thousand-year event.’ 

His letter said: ‘I respectfully request that a major disaster be declared for the State of Montana as a result of spring flooding that began on June 10, 2022.’ 

The letter explained that a combination of factors had caused the flooding, including winter snows – known as ‘snowpack’ melting much more rapidly than usual, leading to an inundation of water.

Gianforte added that cooler-than-average temperatures throughout much of April and May had kept snow in place for far longer than usual, meaning it has now melted more quickly than it normally would, overwhelming the area with rushing waters.  

The unprecedented flooding drove more than 10,000 visitors out of park and damaged hundreds of homes in nearby communities, though remarkably no was reported hurt or killed. The only visitors left in the massive park straddling three states were a dozen campers still making their way out of the backcountry. 

The state is asking Washington for EPA assistance in assessing quality of public water. Officials warned on Tuesday that local drinking water has become unsafe, and to be on alert for displaced wildlife.

They’ve also asked the energy department to restore power for affected communities; the Army Corps of Engineers to fight against flooding and the transportation department to assist and assess federal roadways.

In terms of costs, the state is saying that already $29million in transportation infrastructure has been done while the areas affected usually produce hundreds of millions in tourism spending.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has asked President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster in his state due to the devastating flooding and destruction caused at Yellowstone National Park

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has asked President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster in his state due to the devastating flooding and destruction caused at Yellowstone National Park

Gianforte, a Republican, has asked the Democratic president, has asked for the feds to come in and investigate and hopefully alleviate some of the state's issues resulting from what park officials called a once in a 'thousand-year event'

Gianforte, a Republican, has asked the Democratic president, has asked for the feds to come in and investigate and hopefully alleviate some of the state’s issues resulting from what park officials called a once in a ‘thousand-year event’

The unprecedented flooding drove more than 10,000 visitors out of park and damaged hundreds of homes in nearby communities, though remarkably no was reported hurt or killed. The only visitors left in the massive park straddling three states were a dozen campers still making their way out of the backcountry

The unprecedented flooding drove more than 10,000 visitors out of park and damaged hundreds of homes in nearby communities, though remarkably no was reported hurt or killed. The only visitors left in the massive park straddling three states were a dozen campers still making their way out of the backcountry

The state is asking Washington for EPA assistance in assessing quality of public water. Officials warned on Tuesday that local drinking water has become unsafe, and to be on alert for displaced wildlife

The state is asking Washington for EPA assistance in assessing quality of public water. Officials warned on Tuesday that local drinking water has become unsafe, and to be on alert for displaced wildlife

They've also asked the energy department to restore power for affected communities; the Army Corps of Engineers to fight against flooding and the transportation department to assist and assess federal roadways

They’ve also asked the energy department to restore power for affected communities; the Army Corps of Engineers to fight against flooding and the transportation department to assist and assess federal roadways

The letter, which was sent by acting Governor Kristen Juras, also includes geological survey assessment and health and human services requests.

Parts of Yellowstone will remain closed for the rest of the year because of extensive flood damage, managers say, with the oldest national park in the United States completely shuttered Wednesday. 

A new video posted to YouTube documented the rising waters and devastation as people continue to try and evacuate the park.  

Park officials characterized the severe flooding tearing through the region as a once in a ‘thousand-year event,’ that could alter the course of the Yellowstone river and surrounding landscapes forever.

Officials say that the river’s volume is flowing 20,000 cubic feet per second faster than the previous record measured in the 90s.

10,000 tourists were evacuated – including a dozen trapped campers who were rescued by helicopter – emptying the park completely of all visitors.

All entrances to the park were closed on Tuesday, and though park services say some southern roads may open in a week, they predicted that the northern roads will be closed through the fall. 

Houses in surrounding communities have been flooded or washed away by streams that turned into raging rivers, roads have been carved away, and bridges have collapsed into the torrent.

A bridge near Gardiner, Montana, washed out by the massive flooding that has ravaged the Yellowstone National Park region

A bridge near Gardiner, Montana, washed out by the massive flooding that has ravaged the Yellowstone National Park region

A house collapsing into the Rock Creek after historic flooding turned the creek into a raging river. Numerous houses have been washed away in the flooding

A house collapsing into the Rock Creek after historic flooding turned the creek into a raging river. Numerous houses have been washed away in the flooding

Officials have characterized the unprecedented flooding as a once in a millennium occurrence. 'This isn't my words, but I've heard this is a thousand-year event,' said Cam Sholly, the superintendent of Yellowstone

Officials have characterized the unprecedented flooding as a once in a millennium occurrence. ‘This isn’t my words, but I’ve heard this is a thousand-year event,’ said Cam Sholly, the superintendent of Yellowstone

Waters continued to flow heavily through the Yellowstone River on Wednesday, as the devastation continued throughout the national park region

Waters continued to flow heavily through the Yellowstone River on Wednesday, as the devastation continued throughout the national park region

'All park entrances and roads are temporarily closed due to extremely hazardous conditions from recent flooding,' reads a warning at the top of Yellowstone National Park's website, 'The backcountry is also closed at this time.'

‘All park entrances and roads are temporarily closed due to extremely hazardous conditions from recent flooding,’ reads a warning at the top of Yellowstone National Park’s website, ‘The backcountry is also closed at this time.’

The Yellowstone River seen tearing through the community on its banks in Billings, Montana, on Tuesday

The Yellowstone River seen tearing through the community on its banks in Billings, Montana, on Tuesday

Floodwater could still be seen surging through the landscape on Tuesday, as pictured above in Billings, Montana

Floodwater could still be seen surging through the landscape on Tuesday, as pictured above in Billings, Montana

 ‘All park entrances and roads are temporarily closed due to extremely hazardous conditions from recent flooding,’ reads a warning at the top of Yellowstone National Park’s website, ‘The backcountry is also closed at this time.’

In a statement issued Tuesday on its website, the park warned that its northern portion likely to remain closed for a ‘substantial length of time,’ citing the severe damages to vital infrastructures within the park.

The statement describes lengths of road that are ‘completely gone,’ and will require extensive time and effort to repair or rebuild entirely. 

‘It is probable that road sections in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season due to the time required for repairs,’ the update read. 

The statement noted that roads in the southern section of the park appeared to be less damaged, and that authorities would be assessing that damage to determine when a reopening might be possible. 

A riverbank carved up by the raging floodwaters near Gardiner, Montana, on June 15. The waters were continuing to rage on Wednesday

A riverbank carved up by the raging floodwaters near Gardiner, Montana, on June 15. The waters were continuing to rage on Wednesday

A cameraman filming the location where a house previously stood before it was swept into the floodwaters in Gardiner, Montana

A cameraman filming the location where a house previously stood before it was swept into the floodwaters in Gardiner, Montana

10,000 tourists were evacuated - including a dozen trapped campers who were rescued by helicopter - emptying the park completely of all visitors

10,000 tourists were evacuated – including a dozen trapped campers who were rescued by helicopter – emptying the park completely of all visitors

 Officials have characterized the unprecedented flooding as a once in a millennium occurrence.  

‘This isn’t my words, but I’ve heard this is a thousand-year event,’ said Cam Sholly, the superintendent of Yellowstone.  

 Sholly noted that the river’s volumetric flow has shattered recorded records by a staggering level as of last weekend.  

‘From what I understand, one of the highest cubic feet per second ratings for the Yellowstone River recorded in the ’90s was at 31,000 CFS, and Sunday night we were at 51,000 CFS.’

Sholly also pointed out that historic weather events ‘seem to be happening more and more frequently.’

All entrances to the park were closed on Tuesday, and though park services say some southern roads may open in a week, they predicted that the northern roads will be closed through the fall

All entrances to the park were closed on Tuesday, and though park services say some southern roads may open in a week, they predicted that the northern roads will be closed through the fall

After declaring a statewide emergency on Tuesday, Montana Governor Gianforte said in a statement that rapid snowmelt and recent heavy rains have brought 'severe flooding that is destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and leaving Montanans without power and water services.'

After declaring a statewide emergency on Tuesday, Montana Governor Gianforte said in a statement that rapid snowmelt and recent heavy rains have brought ‘severe flooding that is destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and leaving Montanans without power and water services.’

All tourists were ordered out of the park, as rockslides rained down on roads, mudslides slid down valleys, and the raging river pulled landscapes, bridges and buildings alike into its torrent. 

 ‘It is just the scariest river ever,’ Kate Gomez of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said Tuesday. ‘Anything that falls into that river is gone.’

12 backpackers remained in the park’s back-country after the closure, and were eventually evacuated by a Montana National Guard helicopter. 

 After declaring a statewide emergency on Tuesday, Gianforte said in a statement that rapid snowmelt and recent heavy rains have brought ‘severe flooding that is destroying homes, washing away roads and bridges, and leaving Montanans without power and water services.’

‘I have asked state agencies to bring their resources to bear in support of these communities,’ he said.

The upheaval followed one of the region’s wettest springs in many years and coincided with a sudden spike in summer temperatures that has hastened runoff of melting snow in the park’s higher elevations from late-winter storms.

Videos shot by shocked locals and bystanders captured the devastating effects of the severe weather, including a home that was swept away by surging floodwaters on the banks of the Yellowstone River, a bridge collapse, and cars on a mountain pass narrowly being missed by falling rocks dislodged by the storm.

 

The Yellowstone River flowing through Gardiner, Montana, has been widened by the floodwaters that continue to rage through the region

The Yellowstone River flowing through Gardiner, Montana, has been widened by the floodwaters that continue to rage through the region

A cabin in Stillwater Mine, Montana, that was washed away by the floodwaters that came raging through the region

A cabin in Stillwater Mine, Montana, that was washed away by the floodwaters that came raging through the region

 In Red Lodge, Montana, a town of 2,100 that’s a popular jumping-off point for a scenic, winding route into the Yellowstone, a creek running through town jumped its banks and swamped the main thoroughfare, leaving trout swimming in the street a day later under sunny skies.

Residents described a harrowing scene where the water went from a trickle to a torrent over just a few hours.

The water toppled telephone poles, knocked over fences and carved deep fissures in the ground through a neighborhood of hundreds of houses. The power was knocked out but restored by Tuesday, though there was still no running water in affected neighborhood.

The rains hit just as area hotels have filled up in recent weeks with summer tourists. More than 4 million visitors were tallied by the park last year. The wave of tourists doesn’t abate until fall, and June is typically one of Yellowstone’s busiest months.   

Mark Taylor, owner and chief pilot of Rocky Mountain Rotors, said his company had airlifted about 40 paying customers over the past two days from Gardiner, including two women who were ‘very pregnant.’

Taylor spoke as he ferried a family of four adults from Texas, who wanted to do some more sightseeing before heading home.

‘I imagine they´re going to rent a car and they´re going to go check out some other parts of Montana – somewhere drier,’ he said.

At a cabin in Gardiner, Parker Manning of Terre Haute, Indiana, got an up-close view of the roiling Yellowstone River floodwaters just outside his door. Entire trees and even a lone kayaker floated by.

 In early evening, he shot video as the waters ate away at the opposite bank where a large brown house that had been home to park employees, who had evacuated, was precariously perched.

In a large cracking sound heard over the river’s roar, the house tipped into the waters and was pulled into the current. Sholly said it floated 5 miles (8 kilometers) before sinking.

Roads have been washed out in the northern portion of the 9,000 square kilometer (3,400 square mile) park after torrential rainfall and snowmelt sent months’ worth of run-off into rivers in just a couple of days.

All the entrances to the park, which sits chiefly in Wyoming and is home to the Old Faithful geyser, remained closed Wednesday for a third consecutive day.

Images released by the National Park Service showed large sections of paved road had been swept away by raging rivers.

Aerial reconnaissance revealed ‘major damage to multiple sections of road’ in the northern part of the park, the agency said in its latests assessment.

‘Many sections of road in these areas are completely gone and will require substantial time and effort to reconstruct.

‘The National Park Service will make every effort to repair these roads as soon as possible; however, it is probable that road sections in northern Yellowstone will not reopen this season.’



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