Yosemite road to close ahead of Northern California storms
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Yosemite road to close ahead of Northern California storms

File - In this March 5, 2019, file photo, a man walks with an umbrella in the rain in San Francisco. A cold front traveling down to Northern California from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to dump at least a foot of snow in higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada weeks before the start of summer. National Weather Service meteorologist Brendon Rubin-Oster says the first storm will arrive Wednesday, May 15, 2019, and will continue through Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — A cold front expected to dump rain and snow in Northern California starting Wednesday has prompted the closure of a popular road at Yosemite National Park and left outdoors businesses bracing for smaller crowds through the weekend.

Yosemite National Park spokeswoman Scott Gediman said Glacier Point Road will close at 6 p.m. Wednesday ahead of a series of storms expected to dump at least a foot of snow (30 centimetres) on the highest peaks.

The 16-mile (26-kilometre) road, which offers sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, will remain closed until the storms pass and the road can be evaluated for hazards. The park will remain open, Gediman said.

Visitors are advised to prepare for winter driving conditions for the next several days along the El Portal Road (Hwy 140), Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120 W) and Wawona Road (Hwy 41) , he said.

The first storm travelling down to Northern California from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon. A second system is expected Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

The late spring storms will bring winter-like conditions and could dump more than an inch of rain (2.5 centimetres) in some areas of the Sacramento Valley and up to 2 feet (60 centimetres) of snow in some mountain spots at elevations of about 7,000 feet (2,130 metres). Snow could fall at lower mountain elevations on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

A winter storm warning has been issued from Wednesday night through Friday morning for the Southern Sierra Nevada, it said.

In Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, some business owners braced for slower traffic and cancellations because of the wet weather.

Galen Licht, who owns the Sea Trek Kayak, said the rainy forecast is forcing him to cancel a lot of their guided kayaking trips through the San Francisco Bay.

“It’s raining here right now and there is nobody here. We don’t have any business,” Licht said.

He said three groups that had booked kayaking trips for Wednesday cancelled.

They offer full refunds when people cancel due to weather but Licht said he hopes some people will still come out Friday, when a break on the stormy weather is expected and they can look at the herons, and pelicans and other wildlife in the Bay and take in the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco’s skyline from the water.

“It’s been a long winter and we think people will be ready to go out there when the weather clears,” Licht said. “Will be ready for them.”

A series of winter storms this year drenched California with rain and snow that has left many of its reservoirs almost full, including the newly rebuilt Oroville Dam, which was at 95% capacity Tuesday.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said state officials have been monitoring reservoir levels and releasing waters throughout the season because of this year’s high rain and snowfall totals. The current storm “will dump some new snow in the mountains,” but is not expected to create widespread flooding because some of the snow has already melted, he said.

In Butte County, where two years ago about 200,000 people had to evacuate amid fears the Oroville Dam could collapse during heavy rain, Sheriff Kory Honea took to social media to reassure residents about the dam’s ability to manage inflow from the upcoming storms.

“Based on all that, I don’t believe there is a current imminent threat. If I come to believe there is a problem that puts the safety of our community in imminent danger, I will not hesitate to alert people,” he wrote in a post Tuesday.


Associated Press writer Juliet Williams contributed to this story.

Olga R. Rodriguez, The Associated Press

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