Sunday, July 16, 2017

Snowpack Still Melting in the Sierras in July

You know the story: Radical leftists stopped calling changing temperatures "global warming" a decade or so ago, because the temperatures weren't warming, and hence the weather wasn't sticking to the leftist narrative. Now the weather's all about "climate change," which is a more Gramscian term for leftists, deployed to claim any unusual weather event is evidence of "climate catastrophe."

It's a joke.

In any case, here's this morning's cover story at the Los Angles Times. Things aren't going well up in the Sierras. The ice isn't melting fast enough for campers to enjoy their vacations.

See, "Winter's snow is disrupting this Sierra Nevada summer":

Even when snowbound and inaccessible to vehicles, the rustic Tioga Pass Resort on the crest of the Sierra Nevada range offered homemade pie, a wood-burning stove and plump sofas to relax on after a day of backcountry skiing.

But the winter of 2017 was more than the log cabin lodge, just two miles east of Yosemite National Park, could bear.

Trails, roads and campgrounds throughout the Sierra high country were hit hard by snow and runoff from one of the largest snowpacks in recorded history, leaving public agencies scrambling and summer visitors feeling lost. At Tioga Pass Lodge, established in 1914, loyalists’ hopes of kicking back on a sunny afternoon have taken a particularly tough wallop.

Entombed in 20 feet of hard pack known as “Sierra cement,” the lodge “suffered severe crunch injuries,” said Dave Levy, manager of the resort, which is owned by a consortium of investors.

A team led by Levy used shovels to dig down through the snow to reach the kitchen door. Sheared structural support beams appeared like ghostly shadows in the glare of a flashlight.

“Inside, the bad news was much worse,” he said. “Doors won’t open, windows are shattered, floors are warped, the roof sags. We may reopen sometime next year, but it won’t be easy fixing a place built like a jigsaw puzzle with antiquated construction techniques.”

A creek running through the property leased from the U.S. Forest Service is surging over its banks with snowmelt, undermining the foundations of the lodge and several cabins surrounding it.

Over the July 4 weekend, as thousands of summer vacationers streamed into the mountains with coolers, bicycles, fly rods and barbecues, the runoff in streams peaked.

But with many popular trails and campgrounds still closed because of safety and health concerns, rangers struggle to keep up with visitors arriving each day with the question: “Where can we find a place to camp?”

The hard recovery ahead

“Nearly every campground in the area has problems,” said Deb Schweizer, a spokeswoman for the Inyo National Forest. “There are broken water systems and sewer lines, gates that bent under the weight of so much snow, washed-out bridges and trails, damaged roads, fallen trees, downed power lines.

“It’s taken an incredible amount of cooperative efforts by multiple agencies to open as many campground facilities and roads as possible — and we’re opening more every day,” she said.

In the meantime, the Forest Service has been promoting its “dispersed camping” rules, which allow visitors to pitch a tent on certain undeveloped forest lands. This strategy has brought only despair to Dwayne Beaver, leader of the volunteer fire department in Lee Vining, about 10 miles west of the Tioga Pass.

“It’s costing our fire department money — and lots of lost sleep,” he said. “That’s because whenever someone needs a rescue, or inexperienced campers build an unauthorized fire in a ring of rocks, we have to scramble to deal with it.”

Signs of the snowpack-fueled deluge are visible in most of the watersheds draining the Sierra Nevada. Smallmouth bass and other fish, for example, were found floating belly-up in a stretch of the Lower Owens River near the town of Lone Pine — suffocated by mud and debris flows, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported.

But Southern California Edison and the DWP, which operate extensive networks of dams, diversions and hydroelectric plants across the Sierra range, say that things are not as bad as they could have been.

With snowpack levels at 241% of normal, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in March issued an emergency declaration allowing the DWP to take immediate steps to “armor” its vulnerable Los Angeles Aqueduct in Owens Valley and $1-billion dust-control project on dry Owens Lake, which L.A. tapped to slake its thirst in the last century.

Preparing for the worst, engineers and heavy-equipment operators worked furiously to empty reservoirs and clean out ditches and pipelines to keep them from being overwhelmed by flooding...