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Yosemite breaks decades-old snowfall record, closing national park indefinitely

The roofs of cabins in Yosemite National Park are almost completely covered in snow. At the park’s Badger Pass ski area, the snow is up to the second floor of the lodge. In the Yosemite Valley, snow accumulation broke a 54-year-old daily record — by several inches.

The historic snowfall in the Sierra Nevada from successive winter storms has closed the world-famous park indefinitely as rangers and park officials work to respond to the epic snow pack.

“In all my years here, this is the most snow I’ve ever seen in one sitting,” said Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite and a ranger for 27 years. “This is the most any of us have ever seen.”

The park is initially known for its impressive granite formations and beautiful waterfalls announced Saturday it would close due to severe winter weather, with plans to reopen on Thursday. But after additional snowfall early Wednesday, officials for the national park announced that it would remain closed, without a specific date to reopen.

Late Tuesday, officials measured 40 inches of snow in the Yosemite Valley — one of the park’s lowest elevations — setting a record for the date, Gediman said. The previous record at the bottom of the valley was set at 36 inches on February 28, 1969.

Park officials said up to 15 feet (4.5 m) of snow had fallen in some higher elevations in recent days, making travel extremely dangerous, if not impossible.

“For the past week or so, we’ve had record amounts of snow here in Yosemite National Park, along with the Sierra Nevada,” said Gediman.

Images shared from the other side of the park, snow can be seen almost completely blocking a doorway and park buildings covered with several feet of snow and evidence of a probable avalanche.

“There’s a lot of snow everywhere,” said Gediman.

The park’s ski area hasn’t had decent snow cover in the last five years because of the drought, he said, but since Wednesday, snow has reached some of the chairlifts and the second floor of the lodge.

Experts say this year could bring record snowfall for parts of California.

A blizzard warning for the entire Sierra Nevada remains in effect until 4 p.m. Wednesday, after days of such extreme conditions. Up to 6 feet of additional snow was possible from this week’s winter storm, as well as gusts of up to 75 mph, the warning said.

That new snowfall comes on top of the heavy accumulation of the last storm, who dumped fresh powder on the park on Friday and Saturday. It’s hard to say which tire brought more snow because there was little time between the two systems, Gediman said, but both were significant.

Clearing the roads and keeping staff safe are the park’s top priorities right now, as are clearing the snow load from the roofs, bringing in additional supplies and restoring power, Gediman said. Yosemite has reported no injuries from the storms.

“What we’re doing is literally taking it one day at a time,” said Gediman, who was unable to provide an estimate for reopening. “We are just excavating and doing our best to clear the snow and prepare the park for visitors in a safe manner.”