Ahead of a huge storm, Yosemite Park Service tells tourists: GTFO

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/01/ahead-of-a-huge-storm-yosemite-park-service-tells-tourists-gtfo.html


Donner, party of 8, your table is ready.



Mmm, Donner Kebab.


Some history about this…


Please do take these warnings seriously, folks. I made it home to the SF Bay Area from Reno yesterday, moving up the drive by several hours in order to make it driving through Donner Pass, which we just barely did.

My two passengers were in their 80s and on the stringy side, so I had concerns for my long-term survival.

Notes from the journey:

  • In-car navigation and Google Maps treated the chain-control area as a freeway slowdown/temporary localized obstacle, and glibly would have routed us (had we been unwary) onto small parallel roads likely in worse condition, but technically traveling faster.
  • Snow socks might be easier to manage than chains, but they still take a lot of work and force to put on and take off. We skipped the chain-removal service area because the road was still snowy at that point, but it rapidly hit the melting point as we descended, and we needed help at a service station to get them off so we could resume full-speed travel.
  • Electronic signs may only mention chain controls for trucks, but at times like this the requirements do apply to all vehicles (typically except 4WD with snow tires, but even those aren’t exempt when things get really bad).
  • Driving assist systems are great at maintaining the low maximum speed (30 mph) when using chains and the like, but (a) be ready to dial down the speed from the default high speeds when you turn them back on after an interruption, and (b) if the car detects traction issues on slippery snow-covered roads, they can shut off without notice.
  • Listen to locals. We were checking reports and forecasts, but what got us to leave a long-anticipated important once-in-several-years in-person meeting and hit the road early was local friends in near-the-peak Truckee noting “this is going to be the worst in 25 years,” plus my noticing that chain controls went into effect hours earlier than even they forecast.
  • Be ready for loss of vision/control without notice. Trucks going by were piling snow and splashing slush at us, causing temporary road-forward blindness. Windshield wipers were losing effectiveness as rain froze. Defogging was limited in effect, creating a narrow field of view. We followed the tracks of previous vehicles, but found they would suddenly veer.
  • Top off charging/fuel before you get near the affected area. Be ready for high prices or lack of essential services for your journey, and using up more of your energy source before you can get more. Had we not charged our vehicle’s battery beyond the normal recommended range, we would have had to navigate leaving the freeway and charging in the snow area. And electric-car folks: remember, the vehicle will charge much more slowly as it fills up. While you may be accustomed to adding up to 1000 miles of range per hour, in an unplanned run-for-the-pass getaway without preheating the battery, it could be closer to 50 miles added per hour, not fun when you’re itching to hit the road.

Back in the early 90s, a retired ranger at Yosemite I was hiking with told the story of how he and a friend, back in the 60s, had been doing some early spring camping in the area, and got caught in an unpredicted snow storm in the park. After trying to hike out, getting lost, and giving up, they set up their tent on top of the snow, and then started gathering wood for a fire. The only thing they could find were these spindly pine trees scattered around the area, but they were what they had so they cut them down and, as the storm progressed and turned into an overnight affair, kept tossing them into their fire pit until morning arrived. Come the dawn, they’ve cut dozens of these trees down, the storm ends, and they hike out.

The retired ranger then pointed up at the trees along the trail we were hiking, and at about 15’ up you could see how the older trees in the area, all pines, had had their tops neatly cut off. “The snow,” he said, “had been deeper than we thought.”




For those that just have to see it:



Lovely snow.


“That sounds like a challenge!”-- some idiot.

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