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Yosemite Valley under flood watch, will close to visitors Friday evening ahead of storm

Yosemite Valley, shown here last July, will close to visitors at 5 p.m. Friday and remain shut through Sunday. The park made the announcement Thursday in anticipation of a heavy storm.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite Valley lodgings, campgrounds and roads will close 5 p.m. Friday ahead of a heavy storm forecast for the area that could cause flooding. Overnight and day visitors will have to leave the valley at that time.

National park officials announced Thursday that campground and lodging reservations have been canceled for Friday and Saturday evenings.

In addition, roads into the valley — Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) at the Forest Road Junction and Wawona Road (Highway 41) at Chinquapin and along Highway 140 — also will close.

The YARTS bus service that brings visitors into the Valley will suspend service Saturday and Sunday.

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However, Wawona, Hodgen Meadow, Crane Flat and El Portal campgrounds remain open. Roads could close at any time because of bad weather, the park said in a release.

The National Weather Service forecast 3 to 4 inches of precipitation for Yosemite Valley over the weekend, with the heaviest rain and snow falling Friday and Saturday.

The heavy rainfall plus snow melt could create “excess runoff and bring a threat of localized flash flooding, mud slides, rock slides and debris flows,” the agency said.

It also warned about rises in the Merced, San Joaquin and possibly Kings rivers starting Saturday morning.

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The Merced River could rise as high as 15.8 feet in Yosemite Valley, Brian Ochs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, told the Fresno Bee on Wednesday. At 12.5 feet, the flooding would affect roads and low lying meadows in the park.

The storm is described as a warm “atmospheric river” coming in from Hawaii.

For up-to-date information from Yosemite, call (209) 372-0200 (press 1 and press 1 again) or go to www.nps.gov/yose.

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travel@latimes.com

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