Friday, January 9, 2009

We're still here

I woke up yesterday morning fully expecting to find half of Mount Rainier National Park washed away. So far, those fears have, thankfully, been unrealized. Seven inches of rain fell at Longmire in 48 hours, and the Nisqually River crested at 12.6 feet, below the record of 13.1 feet and slightly lower than had been predicted. We had a lot of water along the Nisqually Road, with snowmelt, rain, and tributary streams flowing down the pavement in many places. However, the only place we've so far found significant damage is on "glacier hill," the stretch of road just above the Nisqually River bridge on the way to Paradise (see photo), where a chunk of pavement fell away to just beyond the fog line. That's a precarious spot and an avalanche chute besides.

At Carbon River, Jim Hull made it in to the park facilities yesterday and reports minimal damage. We lost a little more ground along the river but not as much as expected. A team is hoping to explore further up the Carbon River Road today. At White River, Matt Knowles tried to get into the park yesterday, but was turned back by the flooding and mudslides on Highway 410 well before the park boundary. He'll try again today. No reports yet from Ohanapecosh, either. When the weather improves, we'd also like to do a fly-over to assess Highway 123 and the backcountry. I'll keep you posted.

P.M. Update: Geoff Walker was able to get up to the park boundary on Highway 410 today, but it took most of the day due to washouts and fallen trees outside the park. With a path now cleared to the park boundary, they'll try to get further into the park over the weekend.

4:00 p.m.: From Acting Superintendent Randy King, word that the road above Longmire will not be open this weekend due to the damage on the road above Glacier Bridge. Federal Highway Administration engineers will assess the stability of the road next week and consider options for repair. Sounds like it's a pretty significant break, well beyond the fog line, affecting a 100-foot stretch of road, and at the base of an active avalanche slope.

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