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Yosemite National Park closed indefinitely after storm dumps record-breaking snowfall

Winter Weather California
Posted at 2:30 PM, Mar 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-03 16:30:08-05

A series of brutal winter storms that pummeled California have now shuttered one of the state's most iconic wildlife areas.

Yosemite National Park officials said Tuesday that the park will now have to be closed indefinitely after some areas of the park got up to 15 feet of snow.

"Yosemite has experienced significant snowfall in all areas of the park," officials said three days after the park first closed due to weather. "...Park crews are working to restore critical services so visitors can safely return. There is no estimated date for reopening."

The service shared a series of photos from the park, including one of the door to a restroom where several feet of snow is seen blocking access. The snow in that picture is about three quarters of the height of the doorway. Curry Village, where park visitors are able to lodge, was also significantly impacted, with the lounge and tent cabins about "half buried in snow," officials said.

The recent weather prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue a state of emergency for 13 counties, including Mariposa, to which Yosemite belongs. In it, the governor notes that the severe storms brought "historic precipitation, including snowfall in areas unaccustomed to snow," and that the weather has caused and "continue to threaten" power outages, evacuations and strandings.

While snow isn't uncommon in Yosemite, the park said on Twitter that it's "not too often" the whole park is forced to close because of accumulation. But, they said, it "seems to happen at least once every few years (sometimes more, sometimes less)."

Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gedimen, who has been a ranger at the California park for more than a quarter of a century, told The Los Angeles Times that the most recent downfall is "the most snow that I've ever seen at one time."

"This is the most any of us have ever seen," he said, adding that on Tuesday, there were 40 inches of snow in the Yosemite Valley, an amount that broke a 54-year-old record for that part of the park for the date. The last record-breaking snowfall in the valley, which is among the national park's lowest elevated spots, was 36 inches on Feb. 28, 1969, Gediman told The Times.

And the snow is far from over in Yosemite. The National Weather Service predicts that heavy snow will fall again on Saturday, starting in the morning and potentially accumulating between 6 and 10 inches. That snow is expected to continue to accumulate through Sunday night,

Now, the longtime ranger said that park officials are "literally taking it one day at a time."

"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," he said.