Storm Slams Eastside
The storm hit Friday night, February 1 and left Tuesday afternoon. Around town, the refrain was, “It’s too much snow.”
“Too much snow” measures approximately 89-132 inches, according to Mammoth Mountain’s website. That’s 7 feet 5 inches to 10 feet 11 inches. Two feet fell in a 24 hour period between Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon. Another two feet piled on between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.
Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge was closed on Monday and Tuesday. Highway 203 from The Village at Mammoth to Main Lodge was closed on Tuesday. The top of the mountain was closed for the entire storm and reopened on Wednesday morning. On Monday and Tuesday, there were only four lifts open: Chair 7, Chair 8, Chair 17, and on Tuesday, Chair 22. (The Village Gondola remained open throughout the storm.)
The storm brought the total snowfall on Mammoth Mountain for the season to date to 263 inches, already surpassing last year’s total of 234 inches.
June Mountain received 130 inches (10 feet 9 inches) of snow, and was closed on Tuesday. The storm increased June’s total snowfall to 234” (19 feet 6 inches) .
According to California’s Department of Water Resources, the southern Sierra’s snowpack is 133% of average as of February 5. The state is at 125% of its snowpack average for February.
Mammoth Unified School District closed schools Monday and Tuesday. Both were Red Days, meaning all school activities were cancelled. Town of Mammoth Lakes offices were closed on Tuesday and scheduled meetings were moved to Wednesday. The Mono County Board of Supervisors postponed its regular meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Highway 395 was closed between Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport Tuesday morning, but opened by the afternoon. On Tuesday, Caltrans issued an R3 rating for all roads in Mammoth, requiring all vehicles to have chains without exception. By that afternoon, roads were open. The Mono County Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting at the June Lake Community Center was cancelled, because Highway-158 was closed.
Also on Tuesday, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA) service did not start until 10 a.m. because they had to plow their lot to get the busses out. Initially, they had two busses running the Red Line route from The Village to Snowcreek Athletic Club. ESTA added a third bus around 1 p.m. Monday’s Night Trolley shutdown one hour early at 9 p.m. On Tuesday, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area operated the Green Line for ESTA. That route runs from Juniper Springs Lodge to Vons.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes, MUSD, and Mammoth Lakes Police Department used the high school’s Multi-Purpose Room as a warming hut on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
A warming center was set up at the Mammoth high School Gymnasium and received a few visitors. Two women who were traveling north but had to stop due to the 395 closure used the facility, among others.
Mammoth Yosemite Airport closed Monday and Tuesday, cancelling commercial and private flights.
At one point, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning, a Blizzard Warning, and an Avalanche Warning.
Sarah Roberts, Public Information Officer for the Mono County Sheriff’s Office, said that besides an avalanche alert in Swall Meadows, which proved minimal, there wasn’t much to report.
It was mostly, “Here and there, people getting stuck and unstuck,” Roberts said. Emergency Medical Services Chief Chris Mokracek reported that there weren’t any notable emergencies. He said, Highway 395 being closed between Mammoth and Bishop on Tuesday probably helped.
At its February 6 meeting The Mammoth Lakes Town Council ratified the declaration of a state of Emergency made by Town Manager Dan Holler on February 3. Holler called for the state of emergency because the blizzard has put Mammoth Lakes, “Beyond our resources,” he said.
By declaring a state of emergency the town opens itself up to funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, and from the California Disaster Assistance Act. It also allows the town to coordinate resources more efficiently with the rest of the county, according to Holler.
Holler listed reasons why Mammoth needed this declaration including: “Accumulation on roofs has resulted in threats to the structural integrity of buildings including the Mammoth Hospital,” the fire department needing to call in for snow removal services around hydrants, small avalanches on roads, and the need for warming shelters for visitors and residents.
Once a state of emergency was called the hospital was able to get people from Cal Fire to help shovel snow off the roof of its building. Mammoth Hospital CFO Melanie Van Winkle said that the help from CalFire was crucial, as everyone at the hospital was having to pitch in shoveling.
She also said that emergency room visits at the hospital were down during the storm.
“There are less emergencies because less people are out playing,” Van Winkle said.
She also said that the hospital was having trouble getting a full staff in during the storm.
“The core nurses and staff and physicians are here,” Van Winkle said, “But we can’t get everyone here.”