YOSEMITE: All roads to close today

YOSEMITE (KRON) — All Roads leading into Yosemite Valley are set to close today at 5:00 p.m. as Yosemite National Park anticipates severe weather over the weekend, according to a Yosemite News Release.

Yosemite is anticipating a “significant winter storm” in the region early tomorrow morning, Saturday, January 7, 2017.

The road closure is meant to keep visitors and park employees safe during this weekend’s potentially hazardous weather.

The Yosemite News Release reads,

There will be no visitor services available throughout the storm. Visitors intending to visit Yosemite National Park are highly encouraged to monitor weather reports and check road conditions before departing. These closures are being implemented to ensure the safety of park visitors and employees during the coming storm.”

The following areas are anticipated to remain open and operational:

  • Hetch Hetchy via Evergreen Road will remain open daily from 9am – 5pm.
  • Along Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120 West): Hodgdon Meadow Campground will remain open on a first come, first served basis, Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove will remain open, and Crane Flat Gas Station is open (credit cards only). The Big Oak Flat Road will be closed at the junction to Foresta.
  • Along the Wawona Road (Hwy 41): Wawona Campground will remain open on a first come, first served basis. Visitors will have access to the Redwoods Guest Cottages. There will be access to Yosemite West. The Wawona Road will be closed at Chinquapin (no access will be available to the Glacier Point Road).
  • The El Portal Road (Hwy 140) will be closed at the park line in El Portal. Businesses along Hwy 140 outside of the park are anticipated to remain open.

Park visitors are asked to be aware of hazards, including potential wet and icy road conditions, rockfall, and debris in roadways. The park has experienced significant rainfall over the past month and ground saturation could lead to hazardous conditions along park roadways. The storm is forecasted to peak mid-day Sunday, January 8, 2017. The roads leading into Yosemite Valley will remain closed at least through Sunday. The park will assess conditions early Monday morning. There is no anticipated date or time for roads into Yosemite Valley and guest services to reopen.” – Yosemite News Release

MORE FROM AP:

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Residents of California from the coastline to the Sierra Nevada are gearing up for heavy rain and snow that closed down part of Yosemite National Park on Friday and is expected to swell rivers and topple trees this weekend.

Park rangers closed all roads leading to the valley floor, a major attraction for visitors to view gushing waterfalls and look up at towering granite rock formations such as El Capitan and Half Dome.

Josh Hilling, a photographer and rock climber who lives just outside of Yosemite in El Portal, said he chopped enough wood and bought groceries to see his family of four through the storm.

“If you live long enough in this canyon, you experience lots of natural disasters — floods, fires, rock falls,” he said.

On the coast in Santa Cruz — where up to a foot of rain could fall in places — officials have set up sand bag stations for residents.

“We’re giving them a shovel and the sand and showing them how to fill them up,” said Jason Hoppin, a Santa Cruz County spokesman. “We haven’t seen rain like this in a long time.”

California is entering its sixth year of drought but has gotten a series of storms with heavy rains. They began in October with more rain falling than in three decades, mostly in Northern California. Los Angeles is experiencing the wettest winter in six years, forecasters say.

Forecasters anticipate the storm surge stretching from Hawaii in the Pacific — called an atmospheric river — could dump up to 8 inches of rain from Sonoma to Monterey counties. Forecasters warn of mudslides on the Central Coast hit hard this summer by scarring wildfires.

The storm’s mild temperatures will drive up the snowline to above 9,000 feet throughout the Sierra Nevada, causing runoff in the lower elevations, said Zach Tolby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

The Truckee River, which flows from Lake Tahoe through Reno, is forecast to rise to its highest point in more than a decade, according to the weather service, which has issued a flood warning.

Mammoth, which is at a higher elevation in the southern Sierra, could receive up to 8 feet of snow, Tolby said, adding that another storm early next week could deliver an additional 3 feet of snow.

Access to Yosemite Valley will close at 5 p.m. Friday ahead of stormy conditions beginning early Saturday. Other parts of the park will stay open, but rangers caution visitors to be aware of ice and debris on the roads. The closure is expected at least through Sunday, officials said.

Early Friday, rangers stood watch for flooding along the Merced River, a major river flowing through the towering granite peaks, park spokeswoman Jamie Richards said.

“We’re prepared,” said Richards, adding that they’re accustomed to life in a giant canyon with frequent, rain, snow, ice and rock falls. “We have a lot of things we deal with on a frequent basis.”

Rangers are keeping an especially close eye on Pohono Bridge, which crosses the Merced River deep in Yosemite Valley. Flooding there starts when the water level reaches 10 feet, but the watermark hit just 4 feet Thursday, Richards said.

A large storm in 1997 flooded Yosemite Valley, closing the park for two months and washing out roads, lodging and campgrounds.

Rangers don’t expect damage like they experienced 20 years ago because the snowpack isn’t as deep. They have moved buildings away from the river and increased drainage, Richards said.

“What happened in 1997 is not a comparison with what’s happening today,” she said.

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