Cooke City Shutdown - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Cooke City Shutdown

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YELLOWSTONE, MT -

Recent news stories reported the government shutdown trapped tourists in Cooke City, Montana. We traveled to the Yellowstone gateway town and found no one is physically trapped, but they are economically.

Cooke City is just a few miles outside Yellowstone's northeast gate. The government shutdown closed the Park just days before a heavy snowstorm blanketed roads on both sides of the community. A business owner says tourists were trapped for 24 hours.

The owner of Buns and Beds, Leo Gartner said, "Beartooth was closed, the Park was closed, and Chief Joseph was closed. There was no way in or out of here."

But, some people reportedly drove east toward Wyoming, even as snowplows got stuck on the Chief Joseph Highway. Park spokesman Al Nash said, "If there was a prolonged closure East, we're going to let tourists come through the park. We're not going to be unreasonable."

The park's northeast gate was closed to the public, but locals can get through it. And the park plows a section on the other side of Cooke City that allows them to drive to Wyoming.

Cooke City visitor Bill Anderson said, "It's a ghost town."

People are more afraid of losing their businesses, because the government shutdown and Yellowstone Park closure shut down the tourist traffic.

Gartner said, "Usually this time of year there are a lot more people here. I mean you can shoot a cannonball up and down this street and you wouldn't hit a fly. Our business here is down 80 to 90 percent."

Silvergate, to the west, is even closer to the Park. Most businesses in the tiny town are closed or empty, as they are in Cooke City

It's not clear how many were affected by Yellowstone's closure, and how many normally close this time of year. But both towns count on a summer season that usually ends in late October.

The owner High Country Motel, Brandon Richardson said, "My October reservations were 100% cancelled."

Some here fear they'll have to go out of business because the money they normally make now would get them through the winter.

Gartner said the bills keep coming, but the money has stopped coming in. He said, "I've been talking with my banker every day."

Looking forward, Cooke City residents fear this shutdown, or future ones, will damage their winter snowmobile season, and possibly delay opening next spring.