house falls yellowstone river
Watch moment house collapses into flood water
00:59 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Yellowstone National Park could partially reopen as early as Monday as officials continue to assess the damage caused by historic flooding, which now threatens to hamper the peak of the summer tourist season.

Heavy rains and rapid snowmelt caused rivers to swallow bridges, sweep away entire sections of roadway and forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 visitors. The sudden closure has fueled concerns from business owners and employees in surrounding communities who rely on Yellowstone visitors as a key source of revenue.

The park’s northern region, which bore the brunt of the flood damage, is expected to be closed for a “substantial length of time,” which will likely go through the end of the season, the park said in a release Tuesday.

The less-impacted southern loop could reopen as early as Monday, Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told residents and tourists in Cody, Wyoming, on Wednesday, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

But while the southern loop reopening may provide relief to some tourism industry workers, those bordering the northern entrance are still left to wait.

A North Entrance road in Yellowstone National Park was inundated with water.

In the south Montana city of Gardiner, which acts as a gateway to Yellowstone’s northern entrance, hotel owners are already feeling the impact.

“There’s nobody here,” Kari Huesing, office manager of Yellowstone Gateway Inn, told CNN. “We were booked solid for a year.”

Now, she says, all but one of her visitors are gone following the flooding, and one neighboring hotel has shut down and sent its employees home.

“It’s a Yellowstone town, and it lives and dies by tourism,” Park County Commissioner Bill Berg said of Gardiner.

In Cody, which lies east of the park, tourism industry workers were eager for answers from Sholly on the southern loop reopening, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. Sholly hopes gateway communities and park staff can determine how to sustain local businesses without attracting more visitors than the park can host, the paper reported.

The dangerous flooding fueled by heavy rainfall and snowmelt began to inundate the park and several surrounding communities Monday, overtaking essential roadways and bridges, and making it dangerous or impossible for some people to evacuate.

As some communities became surrounded by water, at times without power or drinking water, search and rescue teams worked to evacuate residents. The Montana National Guard this week carried out 87 rescues by helicopter, it said Wednesday on Facebook.

In Montana’s Park County, which includes Gardiner, water has been receding, and access to the communities that had been surrounded by floodwater has been restored for emergency vehicles at a minimum, Greg Coleman, the county’s emergency services manager, said Wednesday morning.

President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Montana in areas affected by flooding. “Federal funding is available to State, tribal, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storm and flooding in the counties of Carbon, Park, and Stillwater,” the declaration states.

Park temporarily closed as locals try to recover

All five entrances to Yellowstone will remain closed through at least the weekend, the park said in a release Tuesday, and the northern roads of the park will likely be closed for an extended period due to “severely damaged, impacted infrastructure.”

The battering floodwaters wiped away entire segments of paved road near the northern entrance, downed trees and triggered multiple mudslides.

Communities surrounding Yellowstone are also reeling from the catastrophic damage. Quickly moving waters compromised several roads and bridges, submerged cars and even swept away homes as the underlying foundations became completely worn away.

Micah Hoffman uses a pump to remove water from his basement in Red Lodge, Montana.