CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon is set to declare an emergency in response to historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park.
Flooding began Monday, and has since destroyed several roads, bridges and structures in the park and to the north. Park officials say it will take months, if not years, to recover, and that some parts of the park may not reopen this summer.
The emergency declaration will allow Wyoming to ask for federal money to make necessary road repairs, a statement from Gordon’s office said Wednesday.
It will also direct Wyoming Homeland Security to take steps to coordinate state and federal resources.
The state has already been providing aid to responders in Montana as well as the National Park Service.
Though there has only been “minimal” damage to bridges and roads on the Wyoming side of the park, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has been clearing away debris and keeping an eye on the situation. WYDOT is also temporarily maintaining part of Highway 212 between Cooke City and Wyoming Highway 296, after heavy spring snow.
“This will ensure residents, first responders and evacuees have access to supplies, lodging, healthcare and other essential services during the current state of emergency,” Gordon’s statement said.
Gordon has been in touch with Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly, state agency leaders and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has been out of the country on a personal trip during the flood, to coordinate response to the disaster.
Gianforte has issued his own disaster declaration.
Analysis of the flood’s impact is ongoing, Wednesday’s statement said, but in the meantime Gordon suggested visitors to Wyoming continue their visits elsewhere in the state.
“We want to assure the public that we are doing all we can with our partners to open the southern and eastern entrances to the park as quickly as possible,” Gordon said in the statement. “Meanwhile there are plentiful opportunities for visitors to enjoy all the wonders of Wyoming, which remains open for business.”
Wyoming state parks have also expanded visitor capacities, the statement said, and the Department of Tourism is directing visitors to “other recreational opportunities” in Wyoming.
Visit Casper, Natrona County’s tourism board, sent a newsletter Wednesday in support of people affected by the flood. It also urged tourists whose plans changed because of the park’s closure to explore Casper instead, plugging the city’s “rich Western culture, accessible outdoor recreation” and events, including this week’s College National Finals Rodeo.