Outside Yellowstone, flooded towns struggle to recover


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As officials rush to reopen Yellowstone National Park to tourists this week after record flooding hit southern Montana, some of those hardest hit by the disaster live far from the famed park’s spotlight and support each other. to get their lives out of the mud.

In the farming town of Fromberg, the Clarks Fork River flooded nearly 100 homes and severely damaged a major irrigation ditch that serves many of the farms. The mayor of the city says that about a third of the flooded houses cannot be repaired. Resident Lindi O’Brien says that if the city is to recover, its 400 residents will have to do much of the work themselves.

Not far from the riverbank, Lindi O’Brien’s mobile home was raised high enough to prevent further damage. But she got water in her barns and sheds, she lost some of her poultry, and she watched as her recently deceased parents’ house was flooded with several feet of water.

Lindi O'Brien picks up a plaque commending her father's police service from the barn of her parents' home severely damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Lindi O’Brien picks up a plaque commending her father’s police service from the barn of her parents’ home severely damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP)

Elected officials who showed up to tour the damage in Red Lodge and Gardiner, Montana resort towns that serve as gateways to Yellowstone, did not make it to Fromberg to see its devastation. O’Brien said the lack of attention is not surprising given the city’s location, far from major tourist routes.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK TO PARTIALLY REOPEN AFTER FLOODING

She said she is not resentful but resigned to the idea that if Fromberg is to recover, its 400 or so residents will have to do much of the work themselves.
“We take care of each other,” O’Brien said as she and two longtime friends, Melody Murter and Aileen Rogers, sorted through mud-covered items scattered around her property. O’Brien, an art teacher at the local school, had been fixing up her parents’ house in hopes of turning it into a vacation rental. She now she’s not sure she’s salvageable.

“When you get tired and poop, it’s okay to stop,” O’Brien told Murter and Rogers, whose clothes, hands and faces were smeared with mud.
Yellowstone will partially reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday, more than a week after more than 10,000 visitors were forced to leave the park when the Yellowstone and other rivers burst their banks after being swamped by melting snow and several inches of rain. .

Park officials said Sunday that they hope to reopen the park’s North Loop within the next two weeks, after previously saying it would likely remain closed for the summer season. The North Loop would give visitors access to popular attractions like Tower Falls and Mammoth Hot Springs. But they’d still be bare of the Lamar Valley, which is famous for its prolific wildlife, including bears, wolves, and bison, which can often be seen from the roadside.

Meanwhile, outside of the population centers that border the park, there is a maze of damaged roads. A key bridge leading into the town of Fishtail collapsed, causing traffic to be diverted onto a single-lane county road. There are about 500 people at Fishtail.

Lindi O'Brien picks up a plaque commending her father's police service from the barn of her parents' home severely damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Lindi O’Brien picks up a plaque commending her father’s police service from the barn of her parents’ home severely damaged by severe flooding in Fromberg, Mont., Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP)

Lee Johnson and his wife and daughter run the MontAsia restaurant, so named because it is a fusion of Malaysian and Montana cuisine. He said business has plummeted.

RARE CLOSURE OF YELLOWSTONE DUE TO HISTORIC FLOODING MEANS DIFFICULTY FOR ‘FRONT DOOR’ CITIES

“When we first opened after the flood, it started off dead. And you start to get that sense of dread. Did I do all this, put all this money, start this business, and people can’t even get here anymore?” Johnson said.
Johnson and his Malaysian wife, Yokie, took over the lease on a landmark 124-year-old Fishtail building earlier this year, relocating their restaurant from another part of the state. For Yokie, the business was a dream come true.

“Because I’m not from Montana, I wanted to have something,” he said. Doing business with her family was her main goal. Yokie said running the restaurant gives him strength as he battles cancer.

“I’m not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day,” she said.

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Johnson said he is humbled by the opportunity to support his wife and is determined to keep the restaurant open while the flood damage is repaired.

“You hitch your wagon to this community and it’s just a matter of keeping up,” he said.



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