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Boise woman recalls 'chaotic' Yellowstone evacuation at west entrance

All five entrances into Yellowstone National Park are closed because of safety concerns related to floods and rockslides.

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. — Campers and tourists could only watch as the rising flood waters pulled a home off its foundation and into the Yellowstone River.

Boise native Hollie Arnell arrived at Yellowstone National Park in the middle of the madness, estimated around 10:30 a.m. Monday.

"The rivers are all blown out," Arnell said. "[The rangers] said 'hey, you gotta go. They're evacuating and closing the park.'"

As water flooded out of the riverbanks, campers and tourists flooded out of the west entrance gate, according to Arnell. Some people left their gear behind, while others we already in the town of West Yellowstone for breakfast.

Regardless, people could not reenter the park and get their belongings back, Arnell said.

"Chaotic. Everyone came through that gate and just kind of hunkered down there," Arnell said. "People were talking with rangers at the community center. They were like, 'we don't know if you'll be able to get your stuff, or if you can go back in.'"

All five entrances into the park are closed, according to Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly. No one can enter the park, but there is one camp group still in the northern portion of the park, Sholly said. The park has made contact with the group and is ready to evacuate them with helicopters if needed.

The most severe damage is near the north entrance in Montana, Sholly said. The road from Gardiner, Montana - a town of less than 1,000 people - into Yellowstone National Park is destroyed.

This forced some campers to evacuate at another entrance.

Sholly believes the worst of the flooding has past, but there is still roughly a foot of snowpack. The right mix of weather conditions could bring on another intense wave of floods.

"Going north into Montana more, those rivers up there were completely over the ground, coming up to the edge of the roads, to the point where we were like, 'no, let's just turn around and go back to camp.' I don't think anybody will be able to head north for quite a while," Arnell said "I mean, I've been through that park numerous times, but it's not gonna ever be the same."

It's still too dangerous to get boots on the ground and assess the damage, according to Sholly. Until water levels drop, officials won't be able to estimate a timeline for repairs.

Yellowstone anticipates the northern portion of the park will remain closed through the summer, Sholly said. Portions of the park, like the west entrance, may reopen with limited access.

To watch Yellowstone National Parks press conference, click HERE.

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