Yellowstone National Park's Firehole Lake Drive was closed Thursday, July 10, as portions of the roadway's asphalt melted amid the summer's recent heat in the Northwest.
While the park is known for its constantly changing thermal geology and famous geysers, the road closing came during the height of the park's tourism season.
Providing visitors with a scenic 3.3-mile loop by the Great Fountain Geyser, the White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake, officials are unsure when the road will reopen due to the severity of the damage.
Since the beginning of July, temperatures in the Northwest have consistently been at or above normal with Seattle and Portland experiencing only one day with below-average temperatures.
In the park itself, this week has trended above normal as highs for the western portion of the park reached 82 F and 81 F on Tuesday, July 8, and Wednesday, July 9. The average temperature for this time of year in the park is 76 F.
As temperatures soared in the park this week, the extreme heat from the thermal areas surrounding Firehole Lake Drive caused thick oil to bubble to the roadway's surface, inducing major and dangerous damage to the blacktop.
Due to the insecure roadway and surrounding area, the Yellowstone park officials urged visitors to avoid hiking on the affected area.
"There are plenty of other great places to see thermal features in the park," Yellowstone Spokesperson Al Nash said to the Associated Press. "I wouldn't risk personal injury to see these during this temporary close."
As officials think of ways to fix the roadway, heat in the Northwest will ramp up again this weekend. Temperatures in the park are expected to be near to slightly above normal this weekend and next week.
"The forecast for West Yellowstone has temperatures near 80 F each day through Monday," AccuWeather Meteorologist Paul Walker said. "Temperatures each day next week will range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, depending on elevation."
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