A rumbling fleet of snowplows and excavators began the daunting task of clearing a path along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road on Thursday, forging through a winter’s worth of snow and heralding springtime in Northwest Montana.
On their first day of work, plow crews on Glacier’s west side encountered a familiar obstacle – the 25-foot deep avalanche at Red Rock, the first of many colossal drifts along the 50-mile-long feat of engineering.
The road is plowed through winter up to Lake McDonald lodge, and once plow crews clear the section of road between the lodge and the vehicle gates at Avalanche Campground, cyclists and hikers can enjoy access to the road without having to worry about vehicles.
“Once they get through (the avalanche at Red Rock) they have to clear the Avalanche Campground before we open the gateway for hiker-biker season,” park spokesperson Denise Germann said.
On the east side of the park, crews are working to clear the Many Glacier area, Germann said, and park officials will begin updating the website so visitors can follow the plowing progress.
“They are finding lots of snow. There is definitely lots of snow everywhere and bigger drifts than normal,” she said.
Brian Domonkos, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said snowpack levels measured on Flattop Mountain, elevation 6,300 feet, measured 51 inches of snow water equivalent – or the amount of water in the snowpack – which, as of April 11, was 119 percent above the median.
Wintery weather persists in Glacier Park’s high country, and on Logan Pass, park officials measured record winds of 139 mph. Germann said they did not yet know whether the winds caused damage.
“We had record winds but no damage that we are aware of, but we can’t know for sure until we get into the higher country,” she said.
For plowing updates, visit the park’s website at http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/gttsroadplow/gttsroadplowstatus.cfm
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