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Utahns among those evacuated from Yellowstone National Park amid historic flooding

Posted at 9:25 PM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 12:12:48-04

“It was downpouring,” Sharday Kuik said about her experience in Yellowstone National Park this past weekend. “It was a lot of rain.”

Kuik left her home in Heber City late Saturday night and camped out in the heavy rain on Sunday. The next morning, major flooding swept away at least one bridge and washed away roads in the park.

“Literally at 12 o’clock in the afternoon [Monday], a ranger came up when we were on Mammoth Mountain and told us that we had to evacuate,” said Kuik, who had planned to stay until Wednesday. “They told us we needed to evacuate because of the flooding conditions and that they were worried that another bridge was going to go out.”

Kuik made it home to Utah but admits she didn’t see a lot of the damage on the side of the park they had been camping in.

A local truck driver saw the extent of the damage, however.

“I drove 90 miles along the Yellowstone River and I probably drove 50 miles of the Clarks Fork River, and the flooding is on both sides. It was two days of watching massive flooding,” said Mike Hallett, who drives from Salt Lake City to Billings, Montana a few times per week. “I was looking at farms — they were just completely flooded out. I’m seeing all these poor people who are trying to get to their properties and they can’t because the roads were washed out and they’re flooded out.”

Hallett has been driving this route for quite some time. He frequently checks markings on areas along the rivers to note water levels, especially in late May during a known snowmelt timeframe.

“This time, it was like a dam had broken,” said Hallett, who drove through the area since the damage was done. “There was just this absolute torrent of water rushing down through the rivers, and the river wasn’t even in the river anymore. The river was the valley, the valley was the river.”

Park personnel emphasized on Tuesday night that the park will remain closed until further notice.

While many in the area of Yellowstone flocked to find other places to stay, Gwen Ross and her family are still planning to drive north on Wednesday to try and salvage a vacation.

“It’s kind of going into the unknown,” said Ross, who mentioned her AirBnB was non-refundable. ”We’re not really sure what to expect when we get up there, but we’re planning to just avoid the areas where they’re working and do as much as we can up there, but we don’t really know what’s going to be open and what’s going to be closed.”

While they don’t intend on entering the park, Ross said she and her family had been planning this trip for the last six months.

“This is like our family vacation for the year,” she said. “So if we don’t do this, then we don’t do anything, so we’re just going to do our best to still have fun and some other things around the area and go up into Idaho a little bit and just do what we can do.”