Crater Lake National Park closed due to avalanche, heavy snowfall

SALEM, Ore. -- A massive winter storm forced officials to temporarily close Crater Lake National Park on Tuesday.

Oregon's only national park was pounded with heavy snow and high winds during the past few days, resulting in the uncommon closure on Tuesday of what's often called one of the "snowiest inhabited places in North America."

Numerous downed trees and a small avalanche prompted state officials to close Highway 62 from the south and west, halting travel on the only plowed roadway leading into the park during winter.

The park could reopen by Wednesday, but with another 16 to 26 inches expected, the exact reopening date remains dependent on conditions, officials said in a news release.

The avalanche occurred on Highway 62 when a snow layer 18 inches deep and 100 feet wide slid from a slope onto the roadway, officials said.

"Plow trucks were not immediately able to push through debris, and park staff continue to work to clear the road," the news release said.

For more information, contact the Crater Lake Visitor's Center at 541-594-3100 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. or visit

Crater Lake currently has 99 inches of snow at park headquarters, which is 134% normal for this time of year.

© Photo courtesy of Crater Lake National Park. Steel Visitor's Center at Crater Lake National Park covered in snow on Jan. 10, 2016. The park was closed on Tuesday due to heavy snow

The Latest: 3 rescued at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park officials say three visitors were rescued after snowstorms forced them to take refuge in a heated restroom.

A rotary snow plow cleared a path on the three-mile road from park headquarters to Rim Village to reach the visitors Wednesday. Officials say none of them sustained major injuries.

Park staff were first notified of an overdue backcountry snowshoer by family members on Jan. 9. The park was informed of the other two overdue travelers Jan. 11.

Severe weather conditions and the risk of avalanches prevented staff from attempting to reach Rim Village until Wednesday.

Since Jan. 7, the park has experienced heavy snow with strong wind gusts. The park closed all roads Tuesday because of snowfall, downed trees and an avalanche. The road from park headquarters to Rim Village has been closed since Jan. 7.

3:40 p.m.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency due to severe winter storm conditions.

Brown said in a news release Wednesday the declaration came at the request of local officials and was based on recommendations from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

"As snow continues to accumulate and local authorities respond to provide core services and clear roadways, all available state resources will be made available to ensure the safety of communities throughout Oregon," Brown said in the release.

The declaration allows the deployment of Oregon State Police and the Oregon National Guard to support to communities needing assistance.

The declaration also allows for aid in recovery efforts related to the recent of series of severe winter storms.
The state of emergency is in effect for 30 days, unless terminated sooner by the governor.

12:30 p.m.
Crook County officials have asked the state for money, equipment and manpower to help plow rural roads that the Central Oregon county does not maintain.

Some roads have reportedly been covered in snow drifts up to 8 feet deep. Crook County Judge Seth Crawford tells The Bulletin newspaper they're impassible and people who live in neighborhoods including Juniper Acres and Prineville Lake Acres can't leave to get supplies. Some may be running low on food and heat.

Maya Bamer lives in Juniper Acres, an off-the-grid subdivision southwest of Prineville. She says snowmobiles are being used to deliver the donated goods to snowed-in families.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, says he's been assured by the governor's office and state agencies that residents who may be in danger will get assistance.

10:20 a.m.
Portland police officers are on the lookout for stranded motorists, offering transportation to safe, warm locations.
Sgt. Pete Simpson says East Precinct officers are marking unoccupied vehicle with yellow tape to indicate the car had been checked. Officers on ATVs and in SUVs have contacted or marked nearly three dozen vehicles on I-205 and along surface streets.

Central Precinct officers, meanwhile, have responded to dozens of hazard calls, especially in the West Hills, Interstate 5, I-405 and Highway 26.

Officers also responded to welfare checks for homeless people, with roughly three dozen taken to warming shelters. Officers provided jackets to some of those who did not want to go to a shelter.

The major winter storm has dumped a foot of snow in many parts of Portland. It punctuates an unusually cold winter that has seen four people die of hypothermia.

9:50 a.m.
The major snowstorm socking Oregon and southwest Washington led Amtrak to suspend southbound service between Seattle and Portland. No alternate transportation will be provided for the morning Amtrak Cascades service.
Meanwhile, those relying on Portland's light-rail system continue to face delays because of ice, downed trees and fallen power lines. Shuttle buses are serving some stations.

At Portland International Airport, flight delays and cancelations are piling up as the snow continues to swirl. Check ahead before making the trip to the airport.

The Oregon Department of Transportation urges drivers to stay off the road, and motorists appeared to be heeding that message. Many roads were empty Wednesday morning.

8:18 a.m.
Schools and highways were closed across central and eastern Washington state on Wednesday because of snow and high winds. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph were expected in Grant County.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office warned residents to stay off roads, as snow drifts of 3 to 8 feet tall were reported.

"Too dangerous to drive this morning," the sheriff's office tweeted shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday.

6:38 a.m.
A major snowstorm spread through Portland and southwest Washington, toppling trees, closing schools and cutting power to thousands.

The National Weather Service says parts of Portland got up to a foot of snow, a rare event in a city known for its rain.

The snow began at the end of Tuesday's rush-hour commute, so the roads were free of heavy traffic during the storm. Still, some cars were left abandoned on highways and the state Department of Transportation warned drivers to stay home Wednesday, if possible.

Several large branches were down near Portland State University and Portland General Electric reports that more than 30,000 customers are without power.

Is the California drought finally over? Incessant rain and snowfall leads to terrific flooding in the Golden State as thousands of homes are evacuated

Dozens of Northern California residents were evacuated from their flooded homes on Wednesday by rescue workers using boats and firetrucks.

A drought-busting series of storms began to move out of the region after days of heavy rain and snow that toppled trees and wreaked havoc as far north as Portland, Oregon.

Reports of the flooding started about 2am Wednesday as water from a quickly rising creek in the small rural town of Hollister deluged homes on a two-lane stretch of road called Lovers Lane.

Torrents of rain gushed down the street even after rescuers finished evacuating residents more than seven hours later.

Some homes had mudlines about five feet high, marking how far the water rose. The water by that time was receding but still waist-deep in places.

Forecasters said precipitation would continue through Thursday, but the brunt of the back-to-back systems fueled by an 'atmospheric river' weather phenomenon had passed after delivering the heaviest rain in a decade to parts of Northern California and Nevada.

The massive rain and snowfall that prompted a rare blizzard warning in parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains is helping much of Northern California recover from a six-year drought.

The series of storms has also added 39 billion gallons of water to Lake Tahoe since January 1.

'It's just a lot of water,' said Kevin O'Neill, emergency services manager for San Benito County. 'Fields that look like lakes. The ground just can't soak it up. Vehicles that are partly submerged, homes have water damage.'

Hollister resident Richard Sanchez said he didn't evacuate because he wanted to look after his animals after seeing his yard flood.

'My yard is just an ocean,' Sanchez said. 'I decided to stay because I have animals. I wasn't being hardheaded. I just wanted to make sure they were safe.'

Stormy weather extended north where Portland, Oregon and Southwest Washington were slammed with a surprising foot of snow, unusual for an area that normally sees rain.

Crater Lake National Park in Oregon closed Tuesday and into Wednesday with more than 8 feet of snow on the ground.
The staggering snow totals in the Sierra Nevada —up to 11 feet the past week at some ski resorts around Lake Tahoe — was great for easing drought conditions but bad for area ski enthusiasts as road closures and avalanche threats kept most resorts closed for the third day in a row Wednesday.

'In all my years, it's so rare to have too much snow,' said Dan Lavely, who moved to Lake Tahoe in 1968 and now lives in Reno.

'Having a season pass, you pretty much live for these conditions. You want 2 or 3 feet of fresh powder, and you want to go play in it.'

And even though the weather has eased drought conditions for the time being, water officials warn that the wet weather could suddenly stop.

'It could shut down,' Jeanine Jones, interstate resources manager in the Department of Water Resources. told the Los Angeles Times.

'We're about a third of the way into the wettest part of the season. We have to see what happens in the rest of the year.'

Deven Upadhyay, water resource manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, told the Times that the drought isn't completely over.

'We can't say that we're no longer feeling the impacts of the drought. Later this year, we may be able to say that we've really turned the tide and the drought's over,' he said. 'But we're not there yet.'

Upadhyay said that 2017 could turn out to be a lone wet year followed by more dry years, which last happened in 2011.
'Really the only wet year we had was 2010-11. That was a single wet year in what is really kind of a prolonged drought.'

Climatologist Michael Anderson said that the current 'La NiƱa-ish' weather patterns make it hard to know what the rest of the winter will bring, adding that the weather pattern is 'about as unpredictable as you can get'.

In Southern California, as the latest round of rain tapered off, a 9,000-pound of concrete wall and foundation slid down a rain-soaked, unstable hillside in Los Angeles' Hollywood Hills neighborhood.

It landed on a roadway that had been closed because of concerns about the undermined home. No injuries were reported.
The home, built in 1925, was red-tagged as unsafe to occupy while two neighboring homes were yellow-tagged, meaning residents can stay inside but can't go into their backyards.

A Kern County Sheriff's Office helicopter flying grand jury members over areas affected by flooding spotted an elderly woman in distress and rescued her Tuesday, the office said.

Along the Russian River, north of San Francisco, some residents began to assess the damage.

Lorin Doeleman, 62, said so much water flooded her house in Guerneville that she decided to kayak through it to survey the damage and rescue a treasured bottle of brandy.

'I rescued my brandy,' she said, laughing. 'You've got to have a little bit of fun with it. I feel grateful: Nobody got hurt, the house can be fixed.'

Near Sacramento, a small tornado tore tree limbs and ripped awnings late Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorologist David Rowe said.

No injuries were reported from the twister, which was about 100 yards wide and registered on the low end of the tornado scale.

Some 50 homes were affected in Hollister, about 95 miles south of San Francisco, said O'Neill, the emergency services manager.

About 60 residents evacuated on their own. Personnel using boats, Jeeps and firetrucks rescued about 50 people.

It wasn't just people who needed rescuing: Nearly a dozen cows sought refuge on top of a mound of dirt in their pen at a Hollister farm, which was completely flooded.

In Colorado, an avalanche swept across a highway that is a key route to the popular Vail ski resort, blocking access for some skiers heading to the mountain and trapping three commercial trucks, authorities said Tuesday.

No one was injured when the avalanche dumped up to 15 feet of snow onto Interstate 70 at Vail Pass overnight, said Mike Lewis, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

It also swept down a tangle of trees and rocks in its path, but the highway has since reopened.

Storms have dropped a deep layer of snow across the US West over the past several days, sending excited skiers and snowboarders into the mountains but proving damaging and even deadly.

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