The big federal budget cuts — known as sequestration — might delay the reopening of Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park this spring, the National Park Service says.
That could take a bite out of the tourist business along the Eastern Sierra. If the road is closed, hordes of Yosemite tourists can’t drive out 9,945-foot Tioga Pass to Lee Vining, Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes.
Tioga Road, the key east-west artery across the Sierra in this part of the range, is closed after the first significant snow in autumn. Often, it reopens by Memorial Day. On big snowfall years, such as 2011, 2005 and 1998, the snow plows are working well into June.
But this is not one of those years. The Sierra snowpack is 62% of average right now. Yosemite’s high country might be a little more or a little less, but it is not high enough to worry about 20-foot snow drifts in early June.
One of the sadder stories I have covered in Yosemite was the death of a snow plow operator in mid-June 1995. His bulldozer was crushed by a huge slab of ice that broke loose and slid down the slippery granite at Olmsted Point in the high country.
Since then, there has been an abundance of caution when plowing the snow from this road.
This year, the reopening could be complicated if the Sierra is hit with late March and April snowstorms. But if the spring melt gets going early, the delay from the sequester may not be a big problem.