Montana’s largest city on Thursday reopened its water supply plant after temporarily closing it due to record flooding that has caused damage to Yellowstone National Park and surrounding communities.
Meanwhile, residents of the flood-ravaged areas were clearing debris and preparing to deal with the economic fallout as the park remains closed at the height of the tourist season.
The city of Billings had asked residents to conserve water because it was reduced to a limited supply after the Yellowstone River reached record levels and caused the closure of the treatment plant.
“We are aware that yesterday’s alert to the community caused panic. That was never our idea,” city officials said in a statement released Thursday. “We have never witnessed a situation like the one we saw yesterday… we didn’t know how bad it could get or how long it would continue,” they explained.
Rising waters continued to move downstream. By Friday morning, flooding was expected to reach Miles City in eastern Montana. Local authorities said low-lying areas along the river could be flooded, but there was no immediate risk to the city of more than 8,000 people.
Authorities on Wednesday had asked Billings residents to conserve water because they had to cut supplies after a combination of heavy rains and melting snow quickly raised the Yellowstone River to record levels, forcing them to shut down its drinking water plant. .
“None of us planned for a flood not seen in 500 years in Yellowstone when we designed these facilities,” said the city’s public works director, Debi Meling.
Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writers Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Brian Melley in Los Angeles contributed to this report.