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Contact: Ellen Blickhan, 406-888-5838
WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Winter has retained its grip on Glacier National Park this week. Substantial storms impacted the park leaving 8 inches of snow in West Glacier and 18 inches in both the higher and lower elevations on the east side. Due to weather, park plow crews spent the beginning part of the week clearing previously plowed roads before they could get back to their spring plowing schedule.
Park snotel sites that collect data on the snowpack usually would be leveling off or showing a decrease in snow water equivalent (SWE) at this time of year. However, the Many Glacier snotel site accelerated to 206 percent of normal SWE in the last couple of weeks. Avalanche Specialists for the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) recorded 16 feet of snow at the 6000 foot level along the Garden Wall above the Sun Road. West Glacier weather records which date back to 1958, show March 2011 as the wettest month on record and April 2011 so far is just shy of the record. Temperatures remained unseasonably cool in the park as well.
On the west side, the plow crews were able to dig through Red Rock slide path and are working towards the West Tunnel on the Sun Road. They reported avalanche debris at Red Rock was approximately 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide. Presently, crews are encountering snow depths of 36 to 68 inches on the road surface.
The vehicle gate remains closed at Lake McDonald Lodge and there will be access for hikers and bikers this weekend on the Sun Road. The road is mainly clear of ice to the Logan Creek Comfort Station, approximately 10 miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. The Camas Road will remain closed to vehicle traffic but will provide hiking and biking opportunities.
On the east side, plowing continues in the Many Glacier Valley between the Many Glacier Hotel and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Crews are encountering drifts from two to eight feet in depth. In the Two Medicine Valley, the road has been cleared to the boundary of the park. On the Sun Road, the vehicle gate remains closed just beyond St. Mary Campground however the plow crews have reached Rising Sun. There will be opportunities to hike/bike/ski on all three of the roads this weekend.
"As our plow crews are getting into the interior of the park, the depths they are finding are tremendous. None of the avalanche chutes have slid significantly, making for some dangerous work ahead," stated Superintendent Chas Cartwright. "Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and we will proceed ahead with the utmost caution using the knowledge and expertise of our plow crews and avalanche specialists."
Visitors should always be alert for snowplows and other heavy equipment on park roads as well as areas of ice, slush, avalanche zones and/or fallen rock. Additionally, spring snowstorms can cause hazardous driving conditions and/or temporary road closures.
For photos, video clips and plowing status, visit the park's home page web site
Information on current park road conditions is also available on the park's road status web site. http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm
This page is updated as conditions change. Travelers may also call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.