Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Snow Pack & Yosemite Falls

The wilderness will be a little less dramatically beautiful this year it appears.

Sierra snow load not so hot
Published: April 23, 2007
The Union Democrat

This year's skimpy snowpack likely means an earlier opening of the region's mountain passes, that Yosemite National Park's waterfalls — a popular springtime attraction —will dry up more quickly and a high-elevation wildflower habitat could be threatened.

Given the below-normal snowpack, Sonora Pass and Ebbetts Pass will "very likely" open before Caltrans' usual Memorial Day weekend target, said Troy Bowers, a Caltrans spokesman based in Stockton.

For the past two years, Sonora Pass, along Highway 108, has opened on May 25 and Ebbetts Pass, along Highway 4, has opened on May 26.

Sonora Pass hasn't opened before May 22 since 2001, when the road was cleared by May 3. During that same time period, Ebbetts Pass — which is about 1,000 feet lower in elevation than Sonora Pass — has opened twice in late April.

"At this time of the year, the weather is so volatile — it fluctuates," Bowers said. "All I can truly say is that they will open as soon as they can."

As of this morning, Highway 108 was closed at Eagle Meadow Road and Highway 4 was blocked at Lake Alpine.

A main component of opening the passes involves repairing winter damage, like removing downed trees and boulders, Bowers said.

"It's not just a matter of removing snow," he said. "They also have to repair the highway and put it back in safe condition."

National Park Service crews have begun plowing Tioga Pass, over Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park, said park spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman.