Advertisement

Yosemite breaks decades-old snowfall record, closing national park indefinitely

Feet of snow on the ground and covering the roof of a structure with a sign reading "Yosemite Falls"
Yosemite National Park has experienced significant snowfall in all areas of the park, with snow up to 15 feet deep in some areas.
(National Park Service)
Share

Cabin roofs at Yosemite National Park are almost completely covered with snow. At the park’s Badger Pass ski area, snow is up to the second floor of the lodge. In the Yosemite Valley, snow accumulation broke a 54-year-old daily record — by multiple inches.

The historic snowfall in the Sierra Nevada from back-to-back winter storms has closed the world-famous park indefinitely while rangers and park staffers work to respond to the epic snowpack.

“In all of my years here, this is the most snow that I’ve ever seen at one time,” said Scott Gediman, a spokesperson for Yosemite and ranger for 27 years. “This is the most any of us have ever seen.”

Advertisement

The park known for its impressive granite formations and stunning waterfalls initially announced Saturday it would close because of severe winter weather, with plans to reopen by Thursday. But after additional snowfall though early Wednesday, officials for the national park announced it would remain closed, without a specific date to reopen.

All roads inside the park have been restricted to administrative use only.

March 1, 2023

As of late Tuesday, officials measured 40 inches of snow in the Yosemite Valley — among the park’s lowest elevations — setting a record for the date, Gediman said. The previous record on the valley floor had been set at 36 inches on Feb. 28, 1969.

Park officials said up to 15 feet of snow had fallen in some higher-elevation areas in recent days, making travel extremely dangerous, if not 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,” Gediman said.

Images shared from across the park show snow almost completely blocking a doorway, covering park buildings with several feet of snow and evidence of a likely avalanche.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday for 13 counties in California that have been hammered by historic winter storms.

March 1, 2023

Advertisement

“There’s just a huge amount of snow everywhere,” Gediman said.

The park’s ski area hasn’t had decent snowpack for the last five years or so because of the drought, he said, but as of Wednesday, snow is up to some of the chair lifts and the second floor of the lodge.

Experts say this year could bring record snowfall for parts of California.

A blizzard warning for the entire Sierra Nevada remains in effect through 4 p.m. Wednesday, following days of such extreme conditions. Up to 6 additional feet of snow were possible from this week’s winter storm, as well as wind gusts up to 75 mph, the warning said.

California’s deadly storm season continued Friday as the first of two atmospheric river storms descended on the state, prompting evacuation orders.

March 10, 2023

That new snowfall comes on top of the significant accumulation from the last storm, which dumped fresh powder on the park Friday and Saturday. It’s hard to say which band brought in more snow because there was little time between the two systems, Gediman said, but both were significant.

Clearing the roadways and keeping staffers safe are the park’s main priorities right now, as well as clearing the snow load off roofs, getting in additional supplies and restoring power, Gediman said. Yosemite has reported no injuries from the storms.

Advertisement

“What we’re doing is literally taking it one day at a time,” Gediman said, unable to give an estimate for reopening. “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.”

Advertisement