Monday, February 11, 2008

Paradise Road closed by snow avalanches

Notes from the park's Management Team meeting today:

"Warmer weather and rain on Friday and Saturday triggered natural avalanches at Christine Hairpin (10-15' deep) [just below the Comet Falls trailhead], 4 avalanche chutes on Glacier Hill [just above the Nisqually bridge], and other places along the road (a total of 10-15 events). At Glacier Hill there is about 300 yards of road buried, unsure of depth. At Paradise there is 5-6 feet of snow in the upper parking lot. The road crew did not go out on Saturday due to extreme avalanche danger. They began clearing the road Saturday and have gotten as far as Glacier Hill. They are awaiting additional rental equipment, including bulldozer which arrived this afternoon. They hope to reach Paradise by the end of the week, but it is unlikely that the road will open in time for the holiday weekend.

"The heavy snowis also causing damage to some buildings, including the stack on the boiler for the auto shop and a number of window panes.

"There was also a planning meeting this afternoon on the avalanche situation and contingency plans for the weekend. Tomorrow morning three rangers will ski up to Paradise from Glacier Bridge to do an assessment of the condition of the road, further avalanche danger, and whether snowmobiles could make the trip, and to fix the weather station. We're checking into renting snowmobiles from Enumclaw (the ones the park owns may not be suitable for this type of terrain). Goal is to get some essential staff up to Paradise on snowmobiles to check utilities. We're still working on getting WASDOT to come out and assist us with an assessment of the road and if the slides and generally diminished avalanche danger have abated our problem enough to reopen. It is very likely the road will not open this weekend. Park will contact registered group campers and tell them this. We will not make alternate provisions such as opening Cougar Rock to group camping, because there are no toilets there and because it would mean diverting some of road crew from road opening. We'll offer snowshoe walks at Longmire. Press release is going out today to update public about likely continuing road closure."

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