Dramatic moments National Guard rescues people trapped in Yellowstone

Dramatic moment Montana National Guard aircrews rescue dozens of people trapped in Yellowstone floods

  • The images, released by the Montana National Guard, show aircrews in helicopters rescuing stranded people between June 13 and 14, in the towns of Fromberg, Roscoe, Cooke City, and East Rosebud Lake
  • Other footage released today shows the town of Red Lodge overwhelmed by floodwaters that turned main streets into rivers
  • The footage shows slabs of concrete roads torn away, trees piled up alongside houses submerged in frothing water, and bridges torn away by the floodwaters 
  • The only water treatment plant serving Billings began operating ‘at a very low capacity’ on Wednesday night, after it was overrun and residents were told they had a 24-to 36-hour supply of water Wednesday morning
  • Officials did express optimism that the river would drop quickly enough for the plant to resume operations before the supply ran out 
  • Heavy weekend rains and melting mountain snow had the Yellowstone River flowing at a historically high level of 16 feet as it raced past Billings
  • The city gets its water from the river and was forced to shut down its treatment plant at about 9:30 a.m. because it can’t operate effectively 
  • ‘None of us planned a 500-year flood event on the Yellowstone when we designed these facilities,’ said Debi Meling, the city’s public works director 

Dramatic new images show National Guard aircrews rescuing citizens stranded by severe flooding around Yellowstone National Park. 

The images, released by the Montana National Guard, provide a harrowing view over the shoulders of crewmen in helicopters as they fly low over the ravaged landscape and towns on June 13 and 14.  

In one image, taken over the edge of a helicopter deck, a soldier is lowered by pulley to the roof of a house surrounded by a sea of brown floodwaters. 

Another looks out from inside a helicopter, and down on a flooded house where people can be seen standing on the rooftop. A soldier’s gloved hand can be seen clutching the pulley cable, ready to go.  

The images show neighborhoods submerged in seas of floodwaters, a river valley flooded as full as a lake, and even a rainbow spilling from a rainstorm on the horizon. 

The photos – several of which show mountain ranges and Montana plains rolling into the distance – also convey the might and beauty of the landscape that has been so ravaged by the elements in the past week.

The images are the latest in a run of gripping scenes to emerge from the Yellowstone National Park region, as unprecedented flooding washed away roads, homes and bridges, and led to the evacuation of thousands.

Montana has declared a state of disaster over the flooding, yet Governor Greg Gianforte’s whereabouts remain unknown, as his office confirmed that he is out of the country but declined to say where, or when he would return to his beleaguered state. 

A photo released by the Montana National Guard depicting an airborne rescue of people stranded in the Yellowstone region flooding

The images, released by the Montana National Guard, provide a harrowing view over the shoulders of crewmen in helicopters as they fly low over the ravaged landscape and towns on June 13 and 14

The photos – several of which show mountain ranges and Montana plains rolling into the distance – also convey the might and beauty of the landscape that has been so ravaged by the elements in the past week

Shots show neighborhoods submerged in seas of floodwaters, a river valley flooded as full as a lake, and even a rainbow spilling from another rainstorm on the horizon

The Montana National Guard shots were taken during rescue missions in the towns of Fromberg, Roscoe, Cooke City, and East Rosebud Lake.

The Guard said it has rescued over 87 people and flown over 41 hours of search and rescue missions since June 13.

The National Guard also said that it deployed 16 members to the town of Red Lodge, which was severely flooded this week.    

Dramatic drone footage from Red Lodge, a small town just north of Yellowstone National Park, shows a frothing river rushing down what was once a main street in the town. 

Slabs of concrete streets were torn away by the waters, and trees and debris piled high up against buildings and derelict bridges. 

A valley where once a river flowed, transformed into a lake, as seen from the flight deck of a National Guard helicopter

The Guard said it has rescued over 87 people and flown over 41 hours of search and rescue missions since July 13

Satellite images taken on Wednesday just south of the park’s northern entrance also captured the extent of the devastation in Yellowstone National Park. 

The photos show the previously peaceful rivers transformed into raging torrents, and devastation along their banks. In one photo the winding paved roads are seen torn apart by the swollen river, and completely engulfed by the brown waters downstream.

In another set of before-and-after shots, a bridge can been seen to be swept away.  

Meanwhile, the Billings water treatment plant restarted operations ‘at a very low capacity’ on Wednesday night, after it had been swamped by floodwaters. The plant is the only water treatment facility that services the city. 

A spokesperson said that the plant is operating at a high enough capacity to meet the city’s needs – if residents remain stringent about conserving fresh water.   

News of the plant restarting comes after residents of Billings – Montana’s largest city – were told they had 24-to 36-hour supply of water when the treatment plant was overwhelmed and shut down yesterday morning.  

Drone footage of the floodwaters overwhelming the town of Red Lodge, Montana, was posted online on Tuesday


Slide for a satellite image of road in Yellowstone National Park before it was ravaged by flooding, and and a shot of the same road during the flooding on June 15


Slide to see satellite images of an entrance to Yellowstone National Park before the flooding, and during the flooding on June 15

Governor Gianforte was last seen in public at the groundbreaking of a Montana State University building in Bozeman, on June 10, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. The next day, the first flood warnings were issued for the Yellowstone region. 

As local Montana outlets began to note the governor’s absence, Gianforte’s office released a statement giving a vague explanation of his whereabouts.

The statement said that the governor was on ‘long-scheduled personal trip with the first lady,’ abroad, and that he would was ‘returning early and as quickly as possible.’

 Gianforte has been active on Twitter throughout the disaster, writing that he was ‘closely monitoring’ the situation, leading to outraged and mocking replies from users on the platform.

The governor has also received criticisms from Montana lawmakers, who have accused him of trying to hide the fact that he has been abroad while his state was in crisis. 

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte. He has not been seen in Montana since June 10, as seen above, and his office confirmed that he has been out of the country

 While Gianforte was on holiday on Wednesday, residents in Red Lodge used shovels, wheelbarrows and pump to clear thick mud and debris from a flooded home along the banks of Rock Creek.

‘We thought we had it, and then a bridge went out. And it diverted the creek, and the water started rolling in the back, broke out a basement window and started filling up my basement,’ Pat Ruzich said. ‘And then I quit. It was like, the water won.’

In Gardiner, Montana, businesses had just started really recovering from the tourism contraction wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, and were hoping for a good year as Yellowstone celebrates its 150th anniversary, said Bill Berg, a commissioner in Park County.

‘It’s a Yellowstone town, and it lives and dies by tourism, and this is going to be a pretty big hit,’ he said. ‘They’re looking to try to figure out how to hold things together.’

Slabs of concrete streets could be seen torn away by the waters, and trees and debris piled high up against buildings and derelict bridges

Fallen trees and debris swept away by the floodwaters can be seen piled up against a ruined bridge in Red Lodge, Montana

A main street in Red Lodge, Montana, turned into a raging river by the floodwaters that have been pouring down the Yellowstone River

Cory Mottice, with the National Weather Service in Billings, said the river was expected to crest Wednesday evening and drop below minor flood stage, 13.5 feet, by mid-to-late Thursday.

The unprecedented and sudden flooding raged through Yellowstone after heavy rains and melting mountain snow drove the Yellowstone River to historically high levels.

The river overflowed, and the torrents of water damaged hundreds of homes in nearby communities, though remarkably no one was reported hurt or killed.

It also pushed a popular fishing river off course – possibly permanently – and may force roadways torn away by torrents of water to be rebuilt a safer distance away.

Fallen trees and debris can be seen piled up against homes and buildings in Red Lodge, Montana. In the background, a bridge torn apart by the flooding can be seen

Floodwaters covered nearly every street in the town of Red Lodge, Montana, severely damaging homes, roads, and bridges

Debris piled up along a flooded road in Red Lodge, Montana. The footage was shot by drone and posted online on Tuesday

A stretch of road carved up by the floodwaters in Red Lodge, Montana, after the Yellowstone River flooded the surrounding region

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. 

This photo provided by the City of Billings shows flooding at the Billings water plant on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, forcing the city plant to shut down. The water is shown clearly destroying a red gantry that allows treatment plant employees to access the main building

https://youtube.com/watch?v=iqO9QlMFJOU%3Frel%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26hl%3Den-US

Billings had a just a 24-to 36-hour supply of water and officials asked its 110,000 residents to conserve while expressing optimism that the river would drop quickly enough for the plant to resume operations before the supply ran out 

The Yellowstone River flows past a washed out bridge Wednesday, June 15, 2022, near Gardiner, Mont. Yellowstone National Park officials say more than 10,000 visitors have been ordered out of the nation’s oldest national park after unprecedented flooding tore through its northern half, washing out bridges and roads and sweeping an employee bunkhouse miles downstream

The Yellowstone River flows through Gardiner, Montana on Wednesday

Residents walk along the shore of the elevated Yellowstone River as the floodwaters continued to rage

Volunteers fill a trailer with debris from a flooded home Wednesday

A child’s muddy bedroom that had flooded is seen Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Red Lodge, Montana

As the waters appear to recede slightly, parks officials are turning their attention to the massive effort of rebuilding many miles of ruined roads and hundreds of washed-out bridges, many of them built for backcountry hikers. 

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said assessment teams won’t be able to tally the damage until next week.

Kelly Goonan, an associate professor at Southern Utah University and an expert in national parks and recreation management, said rebuilding will be a long process.

‘This is something we’re definitely going to feel the impacts of for the next several years,’ Goonan said.

A house that was pulled into Rock Creek in Red Lodge, Mont., by raging floodwaters is seen Tuesday

The roaring Yellowstone River is seen from the air sweeping over trees and near homes 

Residents of Red Lodge, Montana, are seen clearing mud, water and debris from the small city’s main street

Debris from floodwaters is piled up in front of a home in Red Lodge, Mont., Wednesday 

Vehicles block the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, a major tourist attraction now closed due to the historic floodwaters, Wednesday

A house sits in Rock Creek after floodwaters washed away a road and a bridge

Pedestrians walk down a street washed away from Rock Creek floodwaters

In this aerial image taken with a drone, sandbags and mud covered roads are left behind after floodwaters from Rock Creek receded, Wednesday 

A resident carries out damaged items from his flooded home along a washed out street in Red Lodge, Mont., Wednesday

As the Yellowstone rebuild efforts get underway, rangers will have to consider the reality of the park’s altered landscape as well as potential future natural disasters.

The Governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte, declared a statewide disaster. 

‘We certainly know that climate change is causing more natural disasters, more fires, bigger fires and more floods and bigger floods. These things are going to happen, and they’re going to happen probably a lot more intensely,’ said Robert Manning, a retired University of Vermont professor of environment and natural resources. 

Officials may also be able to rebuild in a way that’s more ecologically sound than the roads and bridges built a decade or century ago, he said.

The rains hit just as area hotels filled up in recent weeks with summer tourists. More than four 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.

A home is shown in flood waters Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Livingston, Montana

Highway workers inspect a washed out bridge along the Yellowstone River Wednesday

A collapsed train bridge is shown along the Yellowstone River Wednesday

Yellowstone officials are hopeful that next week they can reopen the southern half of the park, which includes Old Faithful geyser. 

Closure of the northern part of the park will keep visitors from features that include Tower Fall, Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley, which is known for viewing wildlife such as bears and wolves.

Still unresolved is how it will handle all the tourists when only half the park is open.

‘One thing that we definitely know is that half the park cannot support all of the visitation,’ Sholly said Tuesday. 

The park will likely implement some kind of reservation or timed-entry system to let people in without sending crowd sizes sky-high.

Highway workers build up the shoreline of a washed out bridge along the Yellowstone River

In this aerial image taken with a drone, sandbags and mud covered roads are left behind after floodwaters from Rock Creek receded

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