Recovery and reconstruction efforts continue inside and north of Yellowstone National Park nearly three weeks after historic flooding caused significant damage within the park as well as in surrounding communities.
At least 10,000 people became stranded in the park when Yellowstone River flooding began on June 12, and the Montana National Guard rescued more than 80 people.
The raging water destroyed roads and bridges within the park and in communities just north of the north entrance to the park.
About a week after reopening the park's south loop to visitors, Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told FOX Weather said recovery efforts are in full swing.
"Barely three weeks from the flooding event, we've had a lot of progress. We continue to lay out significant both short-term and long-term plans," Sholly said.
The Federal Highway Administration increased emergency funding for flooding recovery from $50 million to $65 million. These funds will be used by the Montana and Wyoming departments of transportation to repair damaged roads in the park, including the north loop and surrounding areas.
"We're moving with these partners to reconnect the communities of Gardiner and Cook City, Montana," Sholly said. "I think we'll be on track for a short-term reconnection this year, and then we'll be working on a long-term reconstruction strategy over the upcoming months and plan that for future years."
According to a news release, the northern loop could reopen as soon as two weeks after repairs and a final inspection of the infrastructure are completed.
On Wednesday, part of Beartooth Highway (US 212) reopened after crews were able to repair some of the flooding damage. The highway is located east of the park's northeast entrance between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Montana. Beartooth Highway is now open from the US 212/WY-296 junction to the Beartooth Ski Hill parking lot.
Some temporary closers will sometimes be necessary due to winter weather on the highway, given its high elevation.
Accessing the park
While the north and northeast entrances remain closed, the rangers reopened the west, east and south entrances on June 22. The flood impacts can still be seen coming through these entrances.
The south loop of Yellowstone continues to be open to the public based on an alternating license plate system.
Here's a quick recap of how that process works:
Under this entry process, drivers with license plates with an odd-numbered last digit can enter on odd days of the month, and those with license plates with an even-numbered last digit (including zero) can enter on even days of the month. Drivers with personalized plates with a mix of letters and numbers that end with a letter will still use the last numerical digit on the plate to determine entrance days. Personalized plates without numbers will be allowed to enter on odd days of the month. For all the rules, visit nps.gov.
Usually, the park receives about 1 million visitors a month during the peak summer season.
Sholly said the alternating license plate system was an idea generated by community business partners to control the level of traffic coming into the south loop.
"It's worked really effectively in the first four or five days, and we're still looking at plans to open the northern loop as soon as possible," Sholly said.
The superintendent said when the north loop does open, it will likely be a modified opening with one-way traffic.
Visitors planning to take a trip to Yellowstone in July or through the summer should continue to check the park website for any changes.
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