Yellowstone National Park will partially reopen on Wednesday after severe flooding

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Parts of Yellowstone will reopen to visitors Wednesday morning, after dramatic flooding forced the national park to close last week.

Entrances to the park’s South Loop will reopen to a limited number of visitors beginning at 8 a.m. June 22, the National Park Service said in a news release Saturday.

“Less than six days ago, Yellowstone National Park was hit by devastating flooding,” Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in the statement. “Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our teams and partners, we are ready to reopen the South Loop of Yellowstone.”

In maps, photos and videos, discover the full force of Yellowstone’s floods

The South Loop includes Old Faithful Geyser and Yellowstone Lake and is accessible through the park’s South, East, and West entrances. Parts of the South Loop, including four campgrounds in Wyoming near the border with Idaho and Montana, will remain closed.

Local residents, business owners and tourists will likely be relieved that parts of the park are reopening. Yellowstone receives most of its visitors between June and September, and this summer was expected to be a particularly busy season as the national park prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Everything you need to know about the Yellowstone closure

At an earlier press conference, the park superintendent said he believed it was the first time since Yellowstone opened 150 years ago that it had to close due to flooding.

Scientists say climate change is making extreme weather events more common globally. Flooding around Yellowstone was just one of many weather disasters recorded across the United States this month.

The US Geological Survey, a government agency, said the floods affecting the national park last week represent a once-in-500-year event.

USGS hydrologist Katherine Chase said preliminary data from measuring stations on the Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs and Livingston suggests “peak flow” had a 0.2% – or 1 in 500 – chance of occur. Near Billings, the provisional flow was “between 1% (or 1 in 100) and 0.2% (1 in 500) flooding,” the USGS said in a statement.

Yet, Chase noted, “although these floods are often referred to as larger (or rarer) than a 1 in 500 year event, there is the same probability that they could occur in any given year. “.

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To avoid a crash and other damage to nature and park infrastructure once the Yellowstone South Loop entrances reopen, authorities plan to limit the number of potential visitors. As a result, the park devised a system based on vehicle license plates to determine entry.

On odd calendar dates, only vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number will be allowed entry. Even calendar dates will allow cars with plates ending in even numbers. Certain vehicles will be exempt from this “alternate license plate system,” including essential workers, tour operators and visitors who have booked a stay at hotels or campgrounds inside the park.

“Entrance station personnel will refuse vehicles attempting to enter the park when odd/even numbers do not match the odd/even date on the entry schedule,” the Park Service said.

Sholly said park authorities will “monitor” the system and “work together to make any adjustments that may be necessary.” He asked those who want to visit the park to “plan ahead and be patient with us.”

As authorities investigate the damage, they said the park’s North Loop could remain closed all summer while they work to repair roads, sewage lines, trails and other infrastructure. .

Yellowstone flooding could shut down parts of the park all summer

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (right) urged tourists on Saturday to visit Montana and help support tourism-dependent towns that have been devastated by flooding.

The Montana Democratic Party and some residents criticized the governor for his absence when Yellowstone had to close. His office confirmed he was traveling with his wife through Italy when the flooding started. While overseas, he “delegated his authority to respond to the disaster to Lt. Governor Kristen Juras,” his office said.

Montana Gov. Gianforte on vacation in Italy as floods crush Yellowstone

Gianforte was back in the state on Friday and visited Gardiner, a gateway community in Yellowstone whose economy relies on tourism. Access to Gardiner was temporarily cut off by flooding last week but has been restored. Gianforte tweeted Saturday that the city and its northern neighbor, Paradise Valley, are “open for business.”

The Park Service has also urged visitors to return to Yellowstone when they can. He said Friday that while access to Yellowstone “will be lower than normal until further notice, there are still incredible opportunities for recreation, wildlife viewing and great experiences in gateway communities. of the park … as well as the surrounding areas of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

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