Yellowstone aims for quick opening; flooded towns struggling
In the Yellowstone area, businesses that survived the flood are dealing with a different threat: closed roads. The historic floodwaters that raged through Yellowstone this week poured into nearby homes and wiped out bridges and roads, isolating communities.
A key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail collapsed, causing traffic to divert through a single-lane county road.
Lee Johnson of Montasia – a Montanan, Malaysian fusion restaurant he runs with his wife and daughter – says the limited access is costing them dearly.
“When we opened for the first time after the flood, it started just dead. And you start to have that sense of dread creep in. Did I do all this, did I sink all this money in, have I started this business and people can’t even get here anymore?” Johnson said.
Johnson and his wife Yokie, who is from Malaysia, took over the property on a beloved 124-year-old building in Fishtail, Montana earlier this year, transferring their restaurant from another part of the state. For Yokie, the business was a dream come true.
“Not being from Montana, I wanted to own something,” Yokie said. “Being in Montana since ’97 and finally be able to own something with my family. To me that’s my biggest goal.”
She had beat cancer a few years ago, but it returned late last year in a more aggressive form and has spread across her body.
“I’m not sure how much time I have left, so the time I have left I want to be with my family, work with them every day, see them every day,” she said.
Even before the couple took over the lease, it had been a watering hole for a group of local retired men who play pool on Friday afternoons. Today, they are celebrating some of their birthdays, and bring Yokie and her family pieces of cake, bantering with them as they serve up rounds of beer.
No matter the new economic hardships they face as roads remain closed into their town, Johnson says there’s no closing the place.
“You hitch your wagon to this community and it’s just a matter of keeping up,” he said.