Mooresville family trapped in Montana as floods rage | WFAE 90.7
Kathleen Saunders left Mooresville last Thursday and flew to Rapid City, South Dakota, for a multi-day road trip through the American West.
With her husband, daughter and in-laws, they were going on a trip to help her mother-in-law progress on one of her life goals: to visit all 50 states. They drove to South Dakota, North Dakota, and then ventured into Montana.
In Gardiner, Montana, they were loading up their car on Monday before heading to Yellowstone National Park when their trip took an unexpected turn.
“When we got up to leave on Monday morning for our trip through Yellowstone, we found that all roads were blocked,” Saunders told WFAE via Facebook Messenger.
Another traveler told them that intense flooding in the area had closed roads to Yellowstone and out of Gardiner, Saunders said. They checked with their hotel reception, who confirmed that they were not going to be able to continue their trip as planned.
“They told us it could take as little as four to 24 hours and we’d be on our way,” Saunders said. “We just thought we’d spend an extra day here and be on our way.”
But then the local residents of Gardiner kept telling them things were going to get worse before they got better.
“We kept hearing from locals that the delay was getting longer and longer as the river crossed more and more places north of here,” Saunders said. “We started to realize that we were stuck here for a while.”
Adding to the situation, Gardiner is suffering from a water main break, Saunders said, which has rendered their hotel tap water undrinkable and many restaurants have had to close.
But despite sustenance on bottled water, bread, PB&Js, snacks and wine, the group is overall in good spirits despite the circumstances, she said.
“Complaining only makes it worse, so why bother,” Saunders said. “We are safe. The Yellowstone evacuees had it so much worse that it puts things into perspective.
The main challenge has been boredom – especially keeping her 11-year-old daughter busy – but they still have electricity to power their electronics and they’ve tried to explore Gardiner while they’re stuck there.
But aside from the occasional helicopter bringing in supplies, things don’t seem too out of the norm.
“No sense of urgency,” Saunders said. “Just another tourist town. You wouldn’t know something was wrong until you walked into a store and heard everyone talking about it.
On Tuesday, however, officials told Saunders they had the green light to begin evacuating. Saunders said water levels had dropped enough the previous night to drive tourists out of town.
“They told everyone ‘If you have to go, go now’ because they don’t know what the river is going to do with the rain coming,” she said.
They head to Bozeman, Montana, then they go to Idaho to return to North Carolina.
Although the trip didn’t go as planned, Saunders said they were still looking on the bright side.
“The scenery is beautiful and we have wine,” Saunders said. “We’ll probably come back in a few years and try to do Yellowstone again. This did not discourage us.
Plus, she said the trip still provided many memories.
“It’s been a great trip so far,” Saunders said. “Another awesome trip with a story to tell when we get home.”