Roads washed out. Buildings and hotels inundated. Creek beds redesigned. Those are the visible impacts of storms that battered Glacier, Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. What remains to be seen is how long it will take the National Park Service to repair the damage, and at what cost.
Judging from the pictures provided by Glacier, it arguably could take months to reconstruct portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Road blown out by storm waters that resulted from heavy rains and melting snows earlier this week. And who knows the extent of damage to the Many Glacier Hotel, which had basement flooding from Swiftcurrent Lake.
While engineering crews are heading in to Glacier to begin assessing the damage, they'll be racing winter to get at least temporary fixes in place before winter's snows shut everything down in the high country.
At Mount Rainier, things were so bad yesterday that the park placed guards at the Nisqually Entrance to keep people out of the park. Behind the gates, a quarter-mile section of road has been washed out inside the Nisqually Entrance, while the Carbon River Road has, basically, been transformed into riverbed.
Here's a closer look at the damage. At Glacier, the Sun Road just east of the Eastside Tunnel has been washed out in three places. In some instances, both lanes of the road are gone. On the west side of the park, the Sun Road has been scoured out by McDonald Creek about one mile east of Avalanche Creek. For more details, check out this account from the Daily InterLake.
At Mount Rainier, where more than 17 inches of rain fell during a 48-hour period earlier this week, along with the road damage inside the Nisqually Entrance, the Sunshine Point Campground along the Nisqually River has been wiped out and damage was inflicted on Highway 410, the Carbon River Road, the Stevens Canyon Road, and the West Side Road. Damage also was sustained by the park's power and water systems. Park officials expect it will take weeks to return to somewhat normal operations.
Of course, these reports assess damage only to infrastructure. Who knows how the backcountry trails and bridges were impacted.
And then there's the timetable of repairs. In Glacier, park officials have plans to embark on a $150 million rebuild of the Sun Road, which long has suffered from deferred maintenance and the extremes of the high elevation that it negotiates.
That work is scheduled to get under way in earnest next year; whether this storm damage will affect that schedule is hard to say right now. But when the Beartooth Highway that runs from Red Lodge, Montana, to Yellowstone's northeastern entrance at Silver Gate was shut down by mudslides in May 2005, it took crews nearly five months to repair the damage and reopen the scenic road at an estimated cost of $13.5 million.
To see more pictures from Glacier, surf over to this web site.
Olympic National Park also sustained storm damage, but it doesn't sound quite as severe as that suffered at Glacier and Mount Rainier. Here's a damage assessment from Olympic officials:
* Hoh Road – The road is closed at its intersection with Highway 101 while Jefferson County and Olympic National Park continue to make damage assessments. Park staff, along with a road engineer from the National Park Service’s regional office, visited areas of the Hoh Road and observed major damage at Twin Creek, where a 65-foot-long and 40-foot-deep section of road has been washed out. Further assessments along the Hoh Road were not possible. A five-mile-long section of the road within the park has not yet been inspected and the extent of damage is unknown at this time.
* Quinault North Shore Road – The east abutments of the Finley Creek bridge were compromised by floodwaters. The bridge is closed to all traffic and the road remains closed east of the bridge.
* Quinault South Shore Road – The road has been damaged and was blocked by large amounts of debris a half mile inside the park’s boundary.
For current road information, call the Olympic National Park recorded road and weather information line at 360-565-3131.