Intense Winter Conditions Forces Yosemite National Park To Shut Down

By Kelly Bjornstad 

Shocking recent weather conditions in California are breaking records and closing some of the state’s best known national parks. Yellowstone National Park was closed indefinitely on February 25th, after some areas of the park received nearly 15 feet of snow. The New York Times quotes Jim Bagnall, forecaster at the Weather Service office in Hanford, California. Referring to the recent storms, he stated,“One after another, they have kept coming.”

This 15 feet of snow that buried Yosemite has resulted in a need for state action, as seen in Governor Gavin Newsom’s issued state of emergency. CBS News explains that the action taken was “…for 13 counties, including Mariposa, to which Yosemite belongs.” Newsom acknowledges that such critical storms have resulted in, “historic precipitation, including snowfall in areas unaccustomed to snow,” as well as the fact that such storms “continue to threaten” dangerous predicaments all over the state. CBS News announces power outages and evacuations as possible outcomes from the extreme amounts of snowfall in the state. 

Scott Gedimen, longtime California park ranger and Yosemite spokesperson, told The Los Angeles Times that the most recent storming had caused “…the most snow that I’ve ever seen at one time.” Adding, “The parking lots are full of snow. There is black ice on winding, mountain roads with no guardrails. There is so much snow on walkways that people are digging to get to houses.” He continued, saying, “Plus, it’s freezing, the entire region is impacted, not just us.”

Yosemite is one of, if not the most popular national parks in California. This means it takes a lot to shut it down. With this historic amount of snowfall in the park, we’re reminded of Yosemite’s last closings. The San Francisco Chronicle writes “The last time snow shut down parts of the park was in 2011, officials said. Wildfires, though, have led to a handful of more recent closures.” The storming did not occur as a quick burst, either. The San Francisco Chronicle goes on to say “The National Weather Service forecasts the worst of the storms in the park through Wednesday, then easing some Thursday before another possible round of on-and-off snow over the weekend.”

The 1969 record of 36 inches of snow in the Yosemite valley was beaten with 40 inches in late February, and with that comes some serious safety concerns.  The San Francisco Chronicle warns “Wind chills are expected to drop as low as 30 degrees below zero, a point at which frostbite develops on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.” After January brought temperatures of -22 degrees Fahrenheit, Yosemite is seeing one of its coldest stretches yet. 

As the park staff continues to work hard to get the park up and running for people to enjoy, we can only hope that people stay safe and vigilant in this major blizzard. 

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