Spring Road Clearing
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Current Road Status - updated 6/15/13
2013 Snow Clearing Operator Log
May 24: The road is now completely cleared. A 6 mile section of the highway (between the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and the Bumpass Hell parking lot) remains closed due to road repair operations near the Sulphur Works hydrothermal area. Full opening of the highway is scheduled for June 6.
April 26: It has been awhile since the last road update, but the road crew is pleased to report that we passed the Bumpass Hell parking area this week and have reached the middle of the first big corner past the Lake Helen picnic area, approximately 6 miles from the southwest park entrance. Regardless of lower than normal snow levels, there is 20 feet on the road at this location. This is a challenging area for the operators to work in, due in part to the tight turn radius and limited areas in which to push snow. Along sections of the road with steep drop-offs at the edge, gravity provides us with an advantage; snow cascades over the edge of the road, making the process go a bit smoother and quicker. The flat areas and tight turns found in areas like Lake Helen make snow removal difficult. Due to the multi-step process of compacting and moving snow to locations where the blowers can access them, road clearing can take significantly longer.
There is also more to the snow removal process that just clearing the road. The freeze-thaw cycle (typical in the spring) transforms the snow on the slopes above the road into a stew of rock, ice, and snow. Snow is a powerful force, acting like a bulldozer pushing large rocks out of place; it is not uncommon to see large rocks suspended on pillars of snow. It is only a matter of days before those rocks will roll down the bank and onto the road surface. As the snow recedes on the slopes above the road, the ground frozen through winter, thaws for several weeks which can release some big rocks and countless smaller rocks which require heavy equipment to move.
Additionally, the warmer spring weather rapidly melts snow during the day, while temperatures hover near freezing at night-this transforms melt water into sizable slicks. Drainage ditches need to be cleaned of fallen rocks to promote good drainage, and road surfaces repaired and shimmed where necessary. Features present along the road in the summer are removed in the fall so they don't get damaged in winter. One of these features is a rock wall located near Emerald Lake. A forklift is needed to re-install the wall, consisting of large blocks which form an aesthetically pleasing guard rail. Finally, the road is driven by Protection Rangers for a final safety review prior to opening the road.
We appreciate the patience of the public during this road opening procedure and invite the public to walk the road to view our progress.
April 23: The road crew is approaching Emerald Lake, as of late morning 4/23. The highway remains closed at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee visitor center during the week. During the weekends the highway will open to the Sulphur Works parking lot. Road repair operations continue at Sulphur Works. As a safety reminder, those walking or biking up the road when construction crew is present should take caution when traveling through the construction zone. Make sure the crew knows of your presence.
April 10: On Monday, 4/8, the road crew resumed road clearing operations by cleaning up about 1' to 2' of snow from our passing storm. Visibility was near zero in the morning hours, so the road crew worked at lower elevation and finished clearing snow on the park road (drifts 3' to 5') in the afternoon up to where we left off last week in the lower switchbacks. Tuesday was another high wind day and process was impeded as we made our own blizzard with the blowers in the deep snow.
April 4, 2013:
March 29: On the North side of the park, we are seeing increasing amounts of snow and are now in the 7' depth range at Summit Lake. The going is slow, but the progress steady. As previously stated, we will be moving the blower on Sunday to the south side of the park, and will return to this area sometime in the late April time frame to give the sun a chance to further melt the snow. In the meantime, we have been busy moving equipment from the headquarters area to Sulphur Works area, and will start snow removal operations on the south side on Monday. As of this time, all three "Cats" are snoozing in the sun at 6,500', but we will put them to work shortly.
March 28: All right, I will admit it; we got a little excited and thought that we would make Summit Lake earlier than we thought. However, we will make it that far today on the North side of the park. The road crew had to clear several downed trees prior to continuing snow removal operations and we are still in five plus feet of snow. The snow pack depth is better than expected in this area (a good thing), and we plan to continue operations with the blower until Sunday, after which we will relocate the blower to the south side of the park and let the Spring sunshine help melt things out. In the meantime, we are continuing to move equipment (bulldozers, Bombardier, and blowers, oh my!) to the south side of the park to start the snow removal operation moving uphill from Sulphur Works on Monday.
March 26: Snow removal operations continue on the north side of the park. As of yesterday afternoon (3/25), the road crew was approximately 1.2 miles from Summit Lake in 5 feet of snow. The snow level should drop slightly where the sun has had a chance to work on the snow pack. Some frozen ash slurry was encountered in the area of the Reading Fire which will be removed when it melts. We are anticipating making it to Summit Lake today, and will continue removal operations with the blower for the remainder of the week. On the south side of the park, we will be transporting bulldozers and the Bombardier to the drop off site (first pull off past Sulphur Works) starting tomorrow, and will resume snow removal operations on the south side of the park on April 1st. (no kidding)
March 22: The road crew is continuing snow removal operations on the north side of the park and is currently past the Devastated Area parking lot and will continue operations past the locked gate today (3/22) and continue blowing snow this weekend until the depth reaches over 6 feet. Lingering ice needs to melt before the road can be opened to the Devastated Area. Snow removal operations began on the south side of the park yesterday which are continuing using a blower only, and we are currently past the Sulphur Works parking lot and will continue operations in this area through today, and resume operations in this area on Monday. It will be some time before the road will be opened to the Sulphur Works parking lot for vehicles. The parking area still needs to be cleared and any lingering ice needs to melt before this can happen.
March 18 Spring road opening has started on the north side of the park. The road crew started in the campground loop at Manzanita Lake and finished 3 loops on Saturday, completed the area on Sunday, 3/17, and moved as far as Sunflower Flat (single lane) by late afternoon. On Monday, the crew cleared the area to two lanes, and continued as far as Lost Creek Campground. Snow levels encountered are approximately 16", with bare asphalt showing in some areas. Work will continue today, and it is expected that we will reach Hot Rock by later this afternoon. We will continue to operate with the rotary blower only until snow depth increases beyond 4 feet. Work will start on the south side on Friday (weather permitting), and we will clear the road as far as Sulphur Works to allow access to construction crews to start the road rebuilding project in this area.
Road Opening Process
Why does the road close in winter and when will it re-open for summer?
Clearing of the main park road (30 miles total), begins in April and on average takes 2 months before the road opens through. Predicting when the road will open is not possible, even in late spring, because weather in April and even May can affect plowing progress significantly. See chart below for opening and closing dates since 1980.
Spring Road Opening Dates - 1980 to present
Did You Know?
All four types of volcanoes found in the entire world are represented in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Volcanoes found in the park include shield (Prospect Peak), plug dome (Lassen Peak), Cinder Cone (Cinder Cone), and Composite (Brokeoff Volcano) volcanoes. More...