Yosemite flood risk, closures block some springtime visitors

Apr 28, 2023, 12:42 PM | Updated: 4:40 pm

The Merced River rages through Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Much of ...

The Merced River rages through Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Much of the famed valley at California's Yosemite National Park will be temporarily closed starting Friday, April 28, due to a forecast of flooding as rising temperatures melt the Sierra Nevada's massive snowpack. (Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

(Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

TWIN BRIDGES, Calif. (AP) — After winter storms dumped massive amounts of snow on California’s mountains, visitors to the state’s famed Yosemite National Park can catch a glimpse of rushing streams, scenic waterfalls and hillsides covered in white.

But some views will be off limits starting late Friday as the park temporarily closes much of the famed Yosemite Valley due to a forecast of flooding amid rising spring temperatures.

Warming weather is quickly melting huge amounts of snow that accumulated in mountains from a series of epic winter storms. Across California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley, temperatures are expected to climb into the mid-90s (35 degrees Celsius) through Saturday, and a flood warning was in effect for rivers, creeks, streams and low-lying areas in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford.

High temperatures speed up the pace of the snowmelt, especially when nighttime temperatures no longer dip below freezing.

This week’s temperatures are 15 degrees higher than normal for this time of year, but are expected to cool next week, said Bill South, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Hanford.

“We’re going to go from highs in the mid-90s on Saturday to highs in the upper 60s on Tuesday,” South said.

The eastern section of Yosemite Valley will stay shut at least until May 3, and reservations for campgrounds and lodging in the eastern valley are being canceled and refunded, park officials said. Other sections including western Yosemite Valley will remain open.

South urged visitors to the Yosemite area to stay alert as the Merced River, which runs through the park, is expected to rise as the snow melts. But next week’s forecast is expected to help.

“Next week, when it cools off, there won’t be as much snowmelt nor as much flooding,” South said.

Downstream from the Lake Tahoe region, people on Friday were flocking to enjoy a day of recreation along the American River, which was swollen from the melting snow. Some were dipping a toe in the chilly waters that were a sharp contrast to the warm weather.

Residents in low-lying areas near the rising rivers in Kings County have been placing sandbags on their properties and moving items to higher ground to prepare. With cooler weather expected, some have breathed a sigh of relief, said Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon.

“There is no immediate concern, and I believe the cold weather next week is going to really help us out,” Verboon said. “Right now, the anxiety has been reduced and I think we’re looking pretty good.”

California’s state climatologist said earlier this week that the state’s communities won’t likely see imminent flooding from this week’s heat wave as upstream reservoirs can accommodate the inflow of melting snow.

But with so much water coursing through rivers that flow out toward the Pacific Ocean and feed an agricultural basin that has been reconverted into a vast lake, officials have warned that a breach in a levee could cause flooding, regardless of temperatures. The Kings River is off limits due to swift-moving water as more water has been released upstream from the Pine Flat Reservoir to make way for melting snow, Verboon said.

That reservoir is expected to receive three times its capacity in water over the coming months due to the massive snowpack. Residents in Kings County’s Island District have reactivated a crisis network to help each other prepare for potential flooding, and the nearby city of Corcoran is adding to the top of a levee to try to keep water out.

The winter rain and snowstorms were welcomed by California’s parched cities and desperate farmers, who have been grappling with intense drought for several years. But a series of atmospheric rivers flooded farms and covered a large agricultural basin typically used for wheat and tomatoes with the now-reemerged Tulare Lake.

Elsewhere in California, some lakes are still covered with ice. Thousands of anglers are expected to head out this weekend for the eastern Sierra trout season opener, but only a handful of lakes will be open due to public safety concerns including fast-moving streams, shore ice and flooded access roads, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

“Fishing experiences this year are likely to be different,” the agency said in a statement.

Taxin reported from Orange County, California.


Dev Shah, 14, from Largo, Fla., competes during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 3...

Associated Press

Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists flex their knowledge quietly

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Confidence on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage manifests itself in subtle ways, like spellers asking questions even though they know the answers. Dev Shah, one of 11 spellers who made it through Wednesday’s semifinals and will return Thursday to compete for the winner’s trophy and more than $50,000 in […]

17 hours ago

This image released by Apple TV shows Brendan Hunt, from left, Jason Sudeikis and Brett Goldstein i...

Associated Press

‘Ted Lasso’ finale proved its whole point — that those who are stuck can overcome (SPOILERS)

NEW YORK (AP) — Roy Kent cries. Nate Shelley apologizes. Rebecca Welton lets her anger go. Trent Crimm finishes his book. Keeley Jones embraces her strength. And the kind-to-a-fault but often lost Ted Lasso finally — after three seasons, but arguably after nearly a lifetime — figures out exactly where he needs to be. Criticized […]

17 hours ago

FILE - A 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refuge named Little Amal walks around Grand Central...

Associated Press

Little Amal, a 12-foot puppet of a Syrian refugee, will travel the US

NEW YORK (AP) — Little Amal, a 12-foot (3.7-meter) puppet of a Syrian refugee, will journey across the United States this fall, visiting key places in America’s history to raise awareness about immigration and migration. The puppet of the 10-year-old girl will visit the U.S. Capitol, Boston Common, Joshua Tree National Park and the U.S.-Mexico […]

17 hours ago

Associated Press

Dinosaur exhibition temporarily closes in Atlanta after intruders cause expensive damage

ATLANTA (AP) — A dinosaur exhibition linked to the Jurassic Park movie franchise has temporarily closed its Atlanta location after police say people broke in and caused more than $250,000 in damage. Atlanta police say they responded Monday to a burglary call at the exhibition, which had just opened Friday at Pullman Yards, an event […]

2 days ago

Associated Press

AUDIO QUIZ: Try to spell the words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — The middle school-age spellers who make it to the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee spend years studying roots and language patterns and poring over the dictionary in order to give themselves a chance to be crowned bee champion. They use those skills to decipher what letters could possibly […]

2 days ago

FILE - Marijuana plants grow at a Minnesota Medical Solutions greenhouse on May 5, 2015, in Otsego,...

Associated Press

Minnesota governor signs bill legalizing recreational marijuana starting in August

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Surrounded by dozens of cheering people in green clothes, Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana for people over the age of 21 starting in August, making Minnesota the 23rd state to legalize the substance for adults. “This has been a long journey with […]

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Yosemite flood risk, closures block some springtime visitors