Residents of communities all around Yellowstone National Park are opening their doors, hotel rooms, and campgrounds to visitors whose plans to stay at the park have been destroyed by flooding.
The closure of all five of the park’s entrances on Monday has caused a chain reaction for both visitors and locals. Tina Hoebelheinrich, director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, said her staff has been fielding phone calls and re-directing tourists since the park shut down yesterday.
“Lots of families, lots of foreign travelers have been in the visitor center, trying to devise ‘Plan B,’” said Hoebelheinrich.
She pointed out that while roads were damaged and impassable at only two of the five entrances, power outages and water quality concerns have facilitated the closure of the other gates into Yellowstone and the evacuation of the park.
“We know this morning that Canyon does not have power; Lake does not have power; Grant does,” Hoebelheinrich said.
Hoebelheinrich noted that the chamber staff has been coordinating with local lodging properties to find rooms for visitors who have been turned away from the park.
“We have lodging available right now,” she said. “We have tent spots available right now. We have camping spots available right now.”
Other communities have extended hospitality to displaced visitors as well.
Deanna Werner, Greybull Chamber of Commerce director, said she has been communicating with tourism organizations both locally and at the state level, reminding them that Greybull is a great place to base a Wyoming vacation.
“I have been calling all the hotels and motels, campgrounds, and seeing what they have available,” she told Cowboy State Daily, “and calling the Cody Chamber of Commerce letting them know to bring the tourists over — Greybull’s open!”
Other communities surrounding the Park have opened parking lots to RVs and campers, and GoFundMe pages have been set up to assist families displaced by flood waters.
Meanwhile, a group in Cody has organized a drive to bring food and other supplies to Red Lodge, Montana, where flooding caused extensive damage.
“I got here right at about 7:45 this morning, and people started showing up,” said organizer Mark Musser. “As soon as we’re full here, I think we’re going to take this trailer, we have an overflow trailer. So we’re going to haul this trailer, and head to Montana.”
Musser said volunteers will continue to accept donations throughout the coming days, as the extent of the damage has yet to be determined.
“Basically, the essentials,” Musser said. “They need baby food, paper goods, and we’ve got bedding, we’ve got towels, paper goods, dog food, cat food, human food. We’ve got a lot of water, and we’re getting some Gatorade for the first responders coming down now.
“And we’ve had a lot of people donating money, we’ve been passing that off to people in the community who are going out to the stores and buying stuff and coming back” he continued. “So the response has been tremendous.”