Yosemite National Park closed indefinitely after record-breaking snowfall

‘We’re just digging out and doing the best we can to remove the snow and get the park ready for visitors in a safe manner,’ ranger says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 02 March 2023 22:37 GMT
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Yosemite National Park closed indefinitely after record-breaking snowfall

Yosemite National Park has been closed indefinitely after breaking a 54-year-old snowfall record by several inches.

Several winter storms have struck the Sierra Nevada, leading to the closure of the park as staff try to deal with the five-decade-high snowpack.

Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman, who has been a ranger for 27 years, told the LA Times that “in all of my years here, this is the most snow that I’ve ever seen at one time”.

“This is the most any of us have ever seen,” he added.

The park said on Saturday that it would close due to the weather, but at that time, the plan was to open back up on Thursday. Following even more snowfall through Wednesday, officials said the park would stay shuttered without an opening date planned.

Officials found that there were 40 inches of snow in Yosemite Valley late on Tuesday. The area has one of the lowest elevations in the park. A new record, it beat the previous high for snow on the valley floor for that date – 36 inches on 28 February 1969.

In this photo provided by the National Park Service, a structure at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, Calif., is covered in snow Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023
In this photo provided by the National Park Service, a structure at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, Calif., is covered in snow Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 (AP)

Regarding areas with higher elevation, officials said as much as 15 feet of snow (4.6 metres) has fallen in the last few days, meaning that travel is very hazardous and practically impossible.

“Over the past week or so, here in Yosemite National Park, along with the Sierra Nevada, [we have] been receiving record amounts of snowfall,” Mr Gediman told the LA Times.

In this photo provided by the National Park Service, tents at Curry Village are covered with snow in Yosemite National Park, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023
In this photo provided by the National Park Service, tents at Curry Village are covered with snow in Yosemite National Park, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 (AP)

Across the park, snow is blocking driveways and buildings, and there have been signs that an avalanche may take place.

“There’s just a huge amount of snow everywhere,” Mr Gediman added. He said the park’s ski area hasn’t had decent snowfall in the last half-decade following the drought, but on Wednesday, the snow reached some chair lifts and the lodge’s second floor.

The snowfall this week comes after a previous storm hit the park on Friday and Saturday.

A road sign pointing towards San Francisco and a ski area is partially buried in a snowbank after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California
A road sign pointing towards San Francisco and a ski area is partially buried in a snowbank after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California (Getty Images)
A stop sign is partially buried in a snowbank after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California
A stop sign is partially buried in a snowbank after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California (Getty Images)

Getting the roadways clear of snow while making sure that employees remain safe are the top two priorities at the moment, Mr Gediman told the LA Times. He also mentioned other tasks, including clearing roofs, acquiring supplies and restoring electricity.

No injuries have been reported in the park so far.

Gas pumps are partially buried in snow, at a service station closed for the winter, after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park
Gas pumps are partially buried in snow, at a service station closed for the winter, after a series of atmospheric river storms on January 20, 2023 in Yosemite National Park (Getty Images)
Water flows from Bridalveil Fall (LOWER C) in Yosemite Valley, after the last of a series of atmospheric river storms passed through, on January 19, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California
Water flows from Bridalveil Fall (LOWER C) in Yosemite Valley, after the last of a series of atmospheric river storms passed through, on January 19, 2023 in Yosemite National Park, California (Getty Images)

Mr Gediman couldn’t give an estimate or a timespan for when the park may open again.

“What we’re doing is literally taking it one day at a time,” he said. “We’re just digging out and doing the best we can to remove the snow and get the park ready for visitors in a safe manner.”

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