GARDINER, Mont. — Gateway towns to Yellowstone National Park were cut off without power and drinkable water Tuesday, amid unprecedented flooding that closed the national park just to the south.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said Tuesday morning he had declared a statewide disaster.
Red Lodge, Montana – a town northeast of Yellowstone with 2,100 residents – was flooded as Rock Creek swelled over its banks. Bridges were breached or destroyed, power was out and areas of the town and county were under mandatory evacuation orders, some of which have since been lifted.
And in Gardiner, a town of about 900 people on the park's North Entrance Road, homes were lost, power was down and water was undrinkable. Roads were washed out and bridges destroyed in both towns.
In some good news, crews opened a road to Gardiner for local traffic and services only Tuesday afternoon. Before that, the local grocery store was doing the "unthinkable" and rationing purchases of food, according to a Facebook post Tuesday morning for Visit Gardiner Montana.
> Video above: A building collapses into the rapidly moving flood waters of the Yellowstone River in Gardiner, Montana, on Monday.
"We awoke yesterday to witness the most horrifying natural disaster that our community has possibly ever experienced in recent times," according to the post. "Unprecedented flood levels of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries have damaged highways in Yellowstone and along U.S Highway 89, leaving residents and visitors stranded in Gardiner, Mammoth, and Cooke City for an indefinite amount of time."
Five families who lived in a home along the Yellowstone River lost everything when the house collapsed into the river. A GoFundMe was set up to help them.
"We trust that aid will come and that our community is a strong one that will surmount this hardship as it has always done before, but this is a difficult time for our small and close knit town and will continue to be for the foreseeable future as we do not know how long we will be unable to get access beyond our damaged travel routes," the town says on Facebook.
Cooke City, a small town accessible only by Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance Road, was cut off by floodwaters, and evacuations were also issued for residents in Livingston, The Associated Press reported.
The Montana National Guard said it had evacuated 12 people stranded in the towns of Roscoe and Cooke City and was assisting with search and rescue in the area of East Rosebud Lake.
While numerous homes and other structures were destroyed, there were no immediate reports of injuries.
> Below: National Park Service video Monday of the North Entrance Road between Yellowstone National Park and Gardiner:
After the flooding passes, gateway towns to Yellowstone could suffer significant losses to their tourism-based economy.
Yellowstone National Park closed its five entrances Monday and evacuated visitors amid flooding, rockslides and mudslides. The park said Monday afternoon that the entrances would remain closed at least through Wednesday, though it could be a long time before all roads reopen.
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement Monday that power was out in multiple areas and there were concerns about the park's water and wastewater system.
"We will not know timing of the park’s reopening until flood waters subside and we're able to assess the damage throughout the park. It is likely that the northern loop will be closed for a substantial amount of time," Sholly said.
Some park visitors were stranded in towns outside the park. West Yellowstone, Montana – outside the park's West Entrance Road – allowed temporary overnight camping in certain areas Monday night amid the emergency situation.
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