Parts of Yosemite National Park will close on Friday ahead of flooding threatened by the melting of huge amounts of snowpack, a delayed blow from record-breaking severe weather this winter.
The closure will last until at least May 3, the national park said on Twitter. The snowpack, which forced the park to close earlier this year, is forecast to melt and increase river flows, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford, Calif.
In Yosemite Valley, El Capitan crossover, a road that crosses the Merced River and sits east of the El Capitan rock formation, will close.
“There will be no visitor access (including pedestrian access) east of that road,” the park said on Tuesday. “Parking in western Yosemite Valley and throughout the park will be extremely limited. Do not park off road.”
No food, water and restrooms, other than a limited number of portable toilets, will be available in western Yosemite during the closure. Reservations for lodging and campgrounds in eastern Yosemite Valley will be canceled and refunded automatically, the park said.
Wawona, the Crane Flat area, Hetch Hetchy and western Yosemite Valley will remain open, the park said. Hikers will also be able to reach Mariposa Grove.
A flood watch is in effect for parts of central California from late Wednesday night to early Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said.
“An extended period of very warm temperatures will cause rapid snow melt which is expected to cause flooding along waterways in Yosemite National Park,” the service said. “This also includes locations in Yosemite Valley, such as the Merced River at Pohono Bridge.”
Precipitation in the area fell as snow rather than rain during an unusually cold February, causing 40 inches to pile up on the floor of the Yosemite Valley. The park was closed during late February and early March because conditions, such as black ice on roads with no guardrails, were deemed unsafe for visitors.
The record amount of snow in Yosemite was just one component in the extreme precipitation that battered large swaths of California over the winter, causing floods, power outages and evacuations.
Yosemite Valley closes whenever the Merced River at Pohono Bridge is expected to exceed 10 feet, according to the park’s website. Floods are expected on and off through the summer, which could cause the park to close again.
The coming closure could be extended beyond May 3, depending on the severity of the floods, the park said.