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Yellowstone visitors change plans as West Yellowstone welcomes them with open arms

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. (KIFI) - Monday brought an interesting change to many families hoping to see the sites of Yellowstone National Park. Jim Bass and his family were no different. When the evacuation order was given, he and his family were waiting for the eruption of Old Faithful.

Bass says although he and his family weren't personally worried, many others around them were nervous about reaching safety.

"There were some folks that were really concerned. Some people were concerned about getting back to their trailers to get their dogs out and about a fish camp. And some other folks were kind of concerned about getting out and whether they were going to be closed in. So some people were a little bit worried," Bass said.

Bass says the main disappointment of the park closure is that his children are unable to see some of the sites he has fond memories from his childhood.

"It's kind of a bummer because we've been planning this trip for over a year. So today we were supposed to be in the park for the second day, and now we're killing time waiting for the storms. To pass. And then we'll move on to our next scheduled stop. So really kind of a bummer that my kids didn't get to see the sights that I saw when I was little."

Though he remains optimistic about what the future can possibly bring.

"Maybe I'll have to just make a trip out again some other time and try it again."

He and his family are currently waiting in West Yellowstone for the storms still in the area to fully pass before they continue their trip.

Katrina Wiese is the president for West Yellowstone's Chamber of Commerce and the Ceo of Destination Yellowstone. She says those living in the town are sympathetic to the abrupt change in many's vacation.

"I understand, you know, the heartbreak of coming to Yellowstone and not being able to see it, but really the sentiment that we've gotten from most travelers have been, you know, just gracious and kind and, you know, really just understanding the situation."

For Wiese and many of the businesses in the area they saw a boom in amount of shoppers as everyone was coming out of the park.

"All of our hotels were full last night. We had to create some emergency camping areas for RV campers that were displaced or tent campers. So we instated an emergency. One night place so they could stay for free as they were coming out of the park. Because we saw or we heard that there were close to a thousand travelers that they, you know, needed to evacuate just for RV sites. So I know our businesses saw a boom yesterday."

She says for many of the businesses and visitors to the area the park closure has given everyone a chance to deeper explore the city of West Yellowstone.

"That didn't stop people from getting out and, you know, going to the restaurants and shopping and, you know, just getting out to see what they can do in our town other than seeing Yellowstone."

Wiese says while Monday brought in an emergency declaration to help some of the campers in the area, that time has passed and many of the campsites in the area have open availability and are welcoming campers with open arms.

"We did visit with all of our different RV and camping with the national forest and the RV sites. Businesses that we have in town. And because we have open availability around town, they decided to pull that emergency camping. And so we're providing those visitors, those places that they can go and get reservations out."

The situation will continue to be monitored and for those coming into West Yellowstone the chamber of commerce says they too will be welcomed with open arms.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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