By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The worst of the flooding in the Yellowstone National Park area may be over, but weekend weather could still pose a threat for continued problems, Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said Wednesday.
There will be some warmer temperatures in the Yellowstone area this weekend, as well as possible thunderstorms, creating a risk of additional flooding by rivers already swollen by last weekend’s torrential rains, he said.
“However, the multi-day rains that happened this past weekend will not return through this coming weekend, so in a nutshell, the biggest risk for more flooding will be from those scattered thunderstorms,” he said. “But the big, widespread rains won’t be there through Sunday.”
He said he is concerned flooding could occur as long as river levels are still elevated and there is still snow to melt.
“The next few weeks will need to be watched very carefully,” he said. “You always want to be on the lookout for the combination of another really warm day and a lot of rain.”
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said about 12 inches of unmelted snow remains in some areas in and around Yellowstone.
Celia Hensley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that over a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, around 2 inches of rain fell in and around the park.
“All of that rain on top of already high rivers is what ultimately caused the flooding,” she said.
Day did note that while Monday’s flooding was a historic event, he would not necessarily say it had never happened before.
“The likelihood of an event like this happening in prior historical times is extremely high,” Day said. “But we definitely haven’t seen anything like this in two and a half to three generations.”
The floods Monday were the result of rivers swollen to record levels by torrential rains falling on melting snow. The flooding forced the park’s closure and evacuation as it resulted in rockslides, mudslides and collapsed roads and damaged the park’s infrastructure.
There is no word yet on when the park will reopen to inbound traffic, but Superintendent Cam Sholly said on Tuesday that he hoped at least the park’s southern portion would reopen by next week.
“We will not know exactly what the timelines are, what the costs are or any of that information until we get teams on the ground who can actually assess the situation,” Sholly said.