Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Storm of the Century

During this afternoon's squad meeting at Headquarters the winter storm, that has been sitting atop us for the last 5 days, has officially been given the name "Storm of the Century". Even Bonnie Hawn, the Grant Maintenance supervisor who has lived here since the 80's says this is among the worst winter storms she has seen! The storm which, rolled in Friday evening, had a winter advisory that was supposedly till Sunday at 5am. And indeed by Sunday at 5am the snow had ceased. The weekend had brought us between 2 to 3 feet of snow. An impressive amount but how foolish we were to think that was it! In fact by Sunday afternoon it was snowing again! 

After battling the weekend storm our friend Jason, who was visiting from Alaska, finally made it to our house on Sunday morning. After a nice warm bowl of chowder Jason and Shane volunteered to assist me in packing down the trail at West Thumb Geyser Basin. One of my duties this winter is to keep a visible trail along the boardwalk for winter visitors. Even though the park does not reopen till December 16th I knew well enough that the weekend snowfall would be covering the Boardwalk. And so the three of us, armed with snowshoes and snowstakes, set out for the boardwalk.
In the summer this boardwalk is a gentle leisurely stroll through the geyser basin however with 2 to 3 feet of light powdery snow on the ground it was going to be a little harder! In fact, our snowshoes did little to keep us above the loose snow and so the three of us took turns blazing the trail whilst we sank to our knees and thighs! We meticulously placed snow stakes along the edge of the boardwalk so that in the future I will know exactly where the boardwalk is regardless of how much snow falls. Although strenuous, the afternoon was enjoyable! We took pictures, laughed and admired the beautiful thermal features surrounded by snow. As we rounded the final corner of the boardwalk the snow began to gently fall once again.

The next day at 8:45 am my phone rings. I figured it was Jason telling me he made it out of the park, however it was quite the opposite. Jason was back at our house! Even with a big Ford F-150, Jason found himself pushing snow with the bumper at which he decided it was probably best to turn back around. Approximately 18 inches had fallen overnight. At the same time I learned that we were once again under a winter storm warning...and this one looked gnarly! Fortunately we were able to get Jason to follow the plow at 11am to the South Entrance where he was then driving onward to our friend Dan's house in Grand Teton NP. Lucky for him he left when he did otherwise he would still be here!

By Monday evening the snow accumulation was becoming more intense and I knew that Tuesday morning was gonna be interesting. And indeed it was!

 At 7:00 Shane and his team were shoveling snow that reached their thighs in order to get the plow out. By 8:15 am, one park vehicle was stuck in the snow at Old Faithful, by 8:30 am Shane was stuck in Grant and by 8:45 am another person was stuck in Lake! Additionally, both Canyon and Lake Districts were out of power. Mother Nature VS. Yellowstone Park = 5 to 0 ! The battle against the snow storm was ruling in favor of mother nature! The park radio was a confusion of statically charged messages ranging from :I'm stuck, Need help, Are you okay, I'm coming you're way" and so on and so forth! 

As the power flickered for the third time in my office, leaving me in complete darkness, I picked up the phone called my boss and said "Can I please work from home today!" She thankfully agreed and by 9:00 am, I was sitting in my thermals working on my laptop from home, monitoring the radio, and watching the snow accumulate and wondering "IS THIS NORMAL?"

The answer is yes, it's normal. But not in November and not so much in such a little span of time. In fact mother nature is early by one week! The park's calendar clearly states that we do not switch to snowmobiles till next week...Can't Mother Nature READ! Our snowmobiles have not even arrived at the park yet therefore we are plowing the roads when we should be grooming them for snowmobiles.Not fun! 

Continued snowfall and high wind of 25-40 miles per hour are predicted to continue through the night. The snow is expected to taper off tomorrow however the numbing cold temperatures are going to take over. Ahhh... yes, temperatures as low as negative 26'F are predicted. I guess I will find out if my -60 F boots truly work!

 It's moments like this that one truly gets to  find out what we are really made of. A chance to step outside our normal routine and persevere in the face of difficulty.


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like great fun. I think we will be getting out dose of some of your adventures when we get up to Denali. Keep the blog going though.

    Ralph Anderson