Montana city ‘out of water’ after treatment plant swamped by Yellowstone floods

‘None of us planned a 500-year flood event’

Related video: Flooding washes out roads in Yellowstone National Park

Residents of the south Montana city of Billings have been advised to continue rationing water after stores were reduced to a 24 hour supply following devastating flooding in Yellowstone National Park.

Officials said Billings was down to 24-to-36-hours worth of water on Wednesday as the state reels from flooding that swept away homes and submerged entire towns while 10,000 people were evacuated from the nearby national park, which remains closed.

The city’s water treatment plant closed when the Yellowstone River reached 15ft high on Tuesday, with residents urged to ration what water they had.

“None of us planned a 500-year flood event on the Yellowstone when we designed these facilities,” public works director Debi Meling told reporters.

The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Billings said on Wednesday night that water levels had begun falling “rapidly” on the Yellowstone and will continued to do so on Thursday, allowing the Billings water plant to restart.

“Tonight, the plant is operating at a level that can meet the community’s essential needs,” the city said in an update, while warning that supplies could only be assured “if residents continue to conserve water.”

The city’s water supply could have been reduced to zero by Thursday – more than 72 hours after historic flooding tore through Yellowstone National Park – if not for the decline in water levels on the Yellowstone.

Officials in the Montana town of Gardiner have grappled with similar issues, with an official admitting on Wednesday that the town’s water supply has “maybe been compromised”.

“The residents have been asked not to drink the city water, so there’s distribution points around the city of Gardiner that have bottled water,” said Gardiner chamber of commerce president Mike Skelton to KULR.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported despite the historic flooding, which has been described as being “once in a 500 year event”, although such extreme weather events are becoming more common as the climate continues to warm.

The Montana National Guard has rescued 87 people since the flooding hit.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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