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Experts say flooding and drought can happen simultaneously, as they are two different concepts

Yellowstone flooding
Jacob W. Frank
/
NPS
Road damage in Yellowstone National Park

Many are calling the flooding in Yellowstone National Park a once-in-500 years event. The water was so high and rapid it washed away roads and buildings and completely changed the landscape of the park.

Meanwhile, much of the region is experiencing a historic lack of water. Erin Whorton, a water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Services, said it is possible for there to be flooding even when an area is in a drought.

“It’s just always important to remember that weather and climate are two different things,” she said. “Weather is like what's happening on a more daily basis and climate is what the overall trend is.”

The drought is considered a long term climate trend. The flood was a short term weather event.

Jackson-based meteorologist Alan Smith said he would not be surprised if more flooding events happen in the future, because with drought comes warmer temperatures.

“That could lead to more rapid snow melts. And if you throw some heavy rain, like what we saw recently on top of the melting snowpack in the spring, we could certainly have more flooding events as well,” said Smith.

Smith added that the flooding did move parts of Yellowstone National Park out of drought status, as previously it had been in ‘abnormally dry’ to ‘moderate drought’ status. However, much of Wyoming is still in moderate to extreme drought.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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