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Lingering snow blocks two roads at Olympic National Park

Snow continues to keep high-elevation roads closed at Olympic National Park.

Obstruction Point Road, which was scheduled to open July 1, is still blanketed by snow up to six feet high in places. After the plows reach the area commonly known as Waterhole (Milepost 3.2), the road crew will finish grading and that section of road could be reopened within one week.

Deer Park Road also is still under snow, with drifts several feet high at the top. The road’s normal operating season runs May 26-Oct. 2, under normal weather conditions.

After the road crews reach the Waterhole area of Obstruction Point Road, their focus will shift to Deer Park Road. Park officials estimate that Deer Park Road may reopen by month’s end.

 • Lower Dam Road, which leads from U.S. 112 to the Elwha Dam, is now closed to all public access. The road was shut down on July 5. Barnard Construction Inc., the contractor for the $26.9 million removal of Elwha and Glines Canyon dams, has installed a gate just south of Elwha RV Park. The closure is expected to last three years.

MOUNT RAINIER

The park had its second-snowiest season in the last five years, not that any visitors to the park haven’t noticed.

According to park statistics, 907 inches of snow fell from June 30, 2010, to July 1. That is second only to the 947 inches that fell in 2007-08.

Last season, the park received 646 inches. The average over the last five years is 766.8 inches. The park typically receives about 680 inches of snow each year.

As of Tuesday, there were still 127 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise. That is 343 percent of normal for this time of year.

The snowiest year at the park was 1971-72, when 1,122 inches of snow fell. The lowest snowfall came in 1939-40, when just 313 inches fell.

MAY VISITATION

Mount Rainier

May 2011: 39,096

May 2010: 56,037

Difference: - 30.2 percent

YTD 2011: 117,608

YTD 2010: 159,376

Difference: - 26.2 percent

Late season snow continued to impact park visitation. The number of visits at Cayuse Pass was down 81.7 percent to just 1,613 because of the late opening of the pass. The pass did not open until May 26. The year-to-date total is the lowest since 2007, when the park was closed through early May.

Olympic

May 2011: 282,322

May 2010: 224,279

Difference: 25.9 percent

YTD 2011: 665,483

YTD 2010: 682,353

Difference: - 2.5 percent

The jump in May was driven by a large increase in the number of visits to the Lake Crescent area (up 39 percent) and at Kalaloch (up 240.5 percent). Year-to-date total for 2011 is the lowest since 2006, when there 647,533 visits in the first five months of the year.

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