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Local family gets stuck in Yellowstone National Park

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 7:00 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It was a dream family vacation to Yellowstone National Park.

“My mother planned it last year we’ve always wanted to go, none of us had been up there before,” Kialea Madden, Defuniak Springs resident said.

Their six-day adventure seemed picture-perfect at first.

“Everything was beautiful the weather was beautiful, it was warm there was still some snow at the top of the mountains,” Madden said.

From the beautiful sights of mountains to the wildlife, and even getting to see a very famous geyser.

“We went to as many places as we possibly could. We saw old faithful - tons of places,” Madden said.

Madden said her family was having a fantastic time. That was, until one morning, when they had planned to go to Grand Teton National Park.

“We stopped at the gas station to grab some gas and ice and we saw a note on the door that said the north entrance was closed,” Madden said. “There are only four entrances to Yellowstone. So we needed to go through the north to get there.”

The Maddens said they decided to have a shopping day instead and quickly after learned they might not be leaving the city of Gardiner, Montana anytime soon.

”My husband and I drove to the entrance. That’s when he told us that the only other exit out of the park was also closed or out of Gardiner. So you can go through the north entrance to get into Yellowstone to get out,” Madden said. “Or you can go north up through Bozeman, Montana to get out and he said that road was also washed out.”

The Madden’s also said they witnessed something unusual floating down the river.

“An entire house was going down the river it was awful. But yeah I think it really sunk in at that point,” Madden said.

The Maddens realized, for the time being, they were stuck.

“We were there for two days where we were not able to leave Gardiner,” Madden said.

On Tuesday, they got some good news. There was a way out for visitors staying in Gardiner.

“They said if you need to get out, you need to go right now. So we started kind of panic packing and left,” Madden said.

Now the family is safely back home in the Panhandle. So what could’ve been a nightmare situation, is now a vacation they will never forget.

The city they were staying in has posted updates on Facebook. They said that five families lost everything.

We awoke yesterday to witness the most horrifying natural disaster that our community has possibly ever experienced in recent times. Unprecedented flood levels of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries have damaged highways in Yellowstone and along U.S Highway 89, leaving residents and visitors stranded in Gardiner, Mammoth, and Cooke City for an indefinite amount of time. Homes have been lost (please find GoFundMe details for the families below), the town water is undrinkable, entire bridges have been destroyed, the power is down, our local market has begun the unthinkable task of rationing purchases of food, and on a personal level our very own staff members are separated from their partners and children because roadways are impassable. We cannot stress enough the abruptness of the events at hand. The residents of our small community did not know that a situation of this magnitude was even possible let alone think that their livelihoods, homes, and families were in jeopardy when waking up on an otherwise sunny June day. To try and give this some semblance of perspective the previous record level for the Yellowstone River in Gardiner was in 1918 at 30,000 CFS, yesterday it was reported that the gauge monitoring CFS broke and its ending recording was 51,400 CFS. We trust that aid will come and that our community is a strong one that will surmount this hardship as it has always done before, but this is a difficult time for our small and close knit town and will continue to be for the foreseeable future as we do not know how long we will be unable to get access beyond our damaged travel routes. Even after the flood levels ebb, we could be looking at a significant loss to our tourism based economy. As the Gardiner Montana Chamber of Commerce, we bear the onus to implore our visitors with upcoming plans to be patient and kind with our small businesses with whom you may have booked your plans with this season. As previously mentioned, just yesterday we found ourselves facing the prospects of undrinkable water, limited food supply, and being indefinitely stranded; all of which is overwhelming aside from returning a wave of business related inquiries. If you have bookings that are more than 30 days out, we ask for you to be patient before cancelling your plans, and especially in asking for a return on your deposits as our hard working small businesses look at the potential prospects of terrible economic hardship this summer. We understand that your travel plans are important, however your understanding is not just wanted, but required. We will continue our efforts to stay abreast of and to share any updates specific to funding, relief efforts, and beyond as we know more. We will be sharing on www.VisitGardinerMT.com. At this time, our staff are unable to access our office due to road damages so we will be closed for the foreseeable future, but you can email us at info@gardinerchamber.com if you have pertinent questions. We will do our best to answer your questions but please know that the Chamber is a staff of three year round employees, all of whom cannot currently access Gardiner, and it is hard to prioritize correspondence at this time with so many unknown variables. Regarding the GoFundMe for the five families/individuals who lost everything please go to: https://www.gofundme.com/f/loss-of-home-in-gardiner-mt-after-major-flood?member=19954765&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer Please pray for our communities along Yellowstone's Northern Range and stay safe.

Posted by Visit Gardiner Montana on Tuesday, June 14, 2022

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