COOKE CITY — Flood waters are beginning to recede in some areas hit early on by severe flooding, revealing the extent of damage left in its path.
In the communities of Cooke City and Silvergate, days of sustained rain coupled with melting snow pack pushed the Soda Butte Creek into severe flooding Sunday and Monday. Cooke City Fire Chief Troy Wilson said Wednesday the creek threatened homes and forced evacuations—a process complicated by washed out bridges and roads.
"We were cut off," Wilson said. "Our closest resources were from Yellowstone and we were cut off from them. So we were definitely hands on and on our own, like we usually are, but a little more intense this time."
Currently, Cooke City and Silvergate are only accessible through the Chief Joseph Memorial Highway via Wyoming. The two towns border the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, which is closed due to severe flooding and is poised to remain that way for several months.
"I've been a part of the Cooke City community since the early 80s and have survived through the '88 fires, the mudslides on Beartooth. We've had some intermediate park closures but have never experienced a full-fledged Yellowstone National Park closed."
By Wednesday, flood waters had moved back significantly, giving the Cooke City Fire Department and emergency services an opportunity to start repairing bridges and roadways.
Wilson is also the owner of the Cooke City General Store, and what worries him and other business owners is the huge hit to the local economy they could potentially face with the closure of one of the country's most-visited national parks.
"Eighty percent of our business is derived from Yellowstone or people going into Yellowstone and that is shut off now," Wilson said.
"We'll welcome any guests to come, because we are still open for business and we are going to act like it's still a normal, great summer."