Flooding My Heart

(Note:  None of these photos are mine.  I pulled them from various friends and groups on Facebook.  I believe these were all taken yesterday.)

Riverfront Park flooding

Much of my beautiful state is flooding this week.  Montana has always been a land of extremes, but that is certainly the case in more recent memory.  Record-breaking snow and cold on the heels of record-setting heat and drought.  One year after another.  Tornadoes, even.  Our municipal water plant had to be shutdown today because we're experiencing what the local weather station is calling a 500-year flood event*.  

Red Lodge flooding

Red Lodge flooding (This is the same bed and breakfast as seen in the center of previous photo.)

Last year nearby Red Lodge was threatened by wildfire burning dangerously close to town.  Yesterday they endured the torrent of Rock Creek as it blasted through their homes and businesses.  Meanwhile, nearby Yellowstone National Park had to be fully closed and evacuated as roads and bridges washed away, campgrounds flooded.  My beloved Yellowstone will never be the same.  We're witnessing the dramatic consequences of overpopulation and climate change.  It is playing out before my very eyes and I am heartbroken on so many levels.  My heart goes out to those reeling from yesterday.  I know there is a long journey ahead for so many people.

Yellowstone National Park - road washout just south of the North Entrance.

In college I studied environmental science and philosophy.  That's one of the reasons I've shaped my life the way I have--trying to minimize my environmental footprint and maximize my joy and quality of life.  Back in school I studied climate change projections.  I read articles on droughts, fires, and floods.  I knew it was happening, but it still seemed fairly slow and distant.  Seeing climate chaos like this--impacting people and places I so love and value--makes me realize I had the timeline wrong.  It is not distant.  It never was.   I feel like we both could and should have done more, collectively, with the intervening years.  More than just inventing a smarter smartphone and shooting rich people into space for their own amusement, for example.  I feel a sense of loss and a sense of outrage.  

Yellowstone National Park - employee housing falling into the river.

Yellowstone National Park - employee housing floating down the river.
We need a boatload less talk and even more action when it comes to sustainability and simpler living.  Not just greenwashing.  Not just passing the buck.  Not just more of the same, repackaged.  Most importantly, change has to start at the top with big business and government.  That is what it will take to drive meaningful and lasting change.  Individual actions matter, but the scale of impact is tipped against us.  We need to get the big players on board if we're hoping to bring our way of life into greater balance for us and future generations.  The time is now.  

Yellowstone National Park - Soda Butte Picnic Area flooding

Of course, that is eerily similar to the sort of thing I read in my assigned college texts twenty years ago...and here we are.  

Red Lodge flooding

In the end, there is a long journey ahead for all of us.  For humanity and beyond.  

Broadway Ave in Red Lodge, after the waters receded, looking for all the world like a riverbed instead of a state highway.  

Yellowstone National Park - flooding between Tower/Lamar Valley and the Northeast Entrance/Cooke City
*Matt and I have a cache of water in the basement.  I can't recommend this enough.  With the water treatment plant out of action the city has only 1-2 days of water in reserve.  While co-workers and friends all around us have been scrambling in a panic to buy and fill water jugs today Matt and I were good to go already.


  1. Dear Beth, I saw the news and thought instantly of you and wondered how you were affected. I'm so sorry. Your words are eloquent and your pictures are, too. Terrible. Our little personal actions are important, yes, but also the big actors - governments, corporations - need to GET WITH IT NOW. The pace of climate change keeps me up at night, honestly.
    (We do have some water jugs in our basement! After a hurricane scare one year. Interested in your methods of storing and how you determined the amount you wanted to store. . . I literally just put jugs on a shelf, haha.)

    1. I am touched by your concern. Thanks, Margo. The photos of the clean-up and aftermath are almost more gut-wrenching than the flooded photos were. So much loss and destruction, though I haven't heard of any flood-related deaths so thank heavens for that. And people are coming together as people do when disaster strikes. I read a warm fuzzy piece this morning about some guys clearing roads in the Yellowstone who heard whimpering and found a dog stuck in a rock crevasse. They were able to reunite owner and dog. These little victories warm my heart.

      I'm doing some deep thinking this week. Not sure if I need to start a letter writing campaign or community organizing or what, but I'm feeling the need to do something. Recycling and eating beans (etc.) isn't feeling like it is doing enough right now.

      Matt read (both camping and FEMA) that you should have at least one gallon per person per day. FEMA says to keep a two week supply, depending on location (hurricane prone, say). So that is largely what we went with. We had a gajillion glass beer growlers/jugs so we used those for storage, plus an old 4 gallon camping jug. I don't follow the FEMA recommendation to swap out the water every six months, but I do check it and give it a sniff.


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