Yosemite closes after violent flooding
January 18, 1997
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EST
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California (CNN) -- Winter storms and
floods have forced officials to close the most popular
section of Yosemite National Park through at least March 1.
Park officials blamed washed-out roads, damaged buildings and
broken sewer lines for the lengthy shutdown.
"This is the longest closure in the park's 106-year history,"
park ranger Geoff Green said. "The reason is simply floods."
Yosemite Valley has been closed since January 1, after a
destructive rainstorm swept through the park. It caused snow
on the ground to melt, resulting in massive flooding.
Previously, the longest the park had closed was for 21 days
during December 1995, due to the government shutdown.
In the valley, the serene green meadows and placid
forests turned into a valley of rushing waterways as raging
waters from the Merced River spilled over.
Trailers were carried away as if they were bath tub floats.
Visitor buildings were inundated, and sections of roads were
washed away and replaced with 30-foot-deep craters.
"The park experienced the largest flood on record," Green
said. "Large pieces of Highway 140 are missing. ... We're
talking hundreds of feet."
Green, who has been living in Yosemite Valley since the
floods began, said if he were to try to drive to his home in
a nearby town, it would take three hours. The drive usually
takes 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, the assessment of damage to park infrastructure is
nearing completion. The National Park Service plans to issue
a preliminary damage report January 22.
Officials will then decide how the park will go about
reopening the scenic Yosemite Valley, which attracts more
than 4 million visitors each year.
Green said if there is a positive lesson to learn from the
ordeal, it is that the floods highlighted structural problems
in the park that officials can now remedy. In the meantime,
officials hope the worst is behind them.
"We'll start worrying about spring floods when the time
comes," Green said.
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