Plowing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was going fine...until recent storms dumped at least 16 inches of snow on parts of the alpine road.
Park officials were hoping to have the 50-mile-long road open end-to-end by mid-June, and say that still might happen, but the recent storms have slowed things down.
The series of storms, which also brought lots of wind, rain, and fog to the park's high cou try, caused plowing to slow overall, and even stop in some places due to blowing snow and poor visibility.
Crews did work Saturday, but encountered rain and fog, limiting their work activities. A strong storm system with excessive rainfall is predicted this week, which may create additional hazards and delays.
Several new snow slides, ranging from 8 to 15 feet deep, on the west side of Logan Pass created additional work to replow the areas, and additional safety concerns for the crews, according to a park release.
Two avalanches slid across the road at the end of a work day last week, one at Triple Arches and one in the Slopes, creating a challenging situation to clear the area for the crew to return to park headquarters.
The east-side crew is working toward the Big Drift, encountering 25 to 30 feet deep snow. They will continue to plow through the drift this week, eventually meeting the west-side crew as they pioneer the Big Drift from the west. The west-side crew reached the Logan Pass Parking Lot late last week, finding 6-8 foot drifts and building eaves covered in snow.
Crews continue working hard to clear snow and debris along the road. Along with the snow, and avalanches, the weather has dumped additional debris, rocks and trees onto the Sun Road.
Work to clean snow on the entire width of the road needs to be completed, as well as installation of guard rails once snow is removed and ice is melted. At the Logan Pass Visitor Center, snow will be plowed and moved in the parking lot, and then snow from around the building needs to be cleared and moved. Much of the final work will be completed with hand shovels, the park release said.
With hopes of getting the entire road open by mid-June, weekend and overtime work is taking place to support the projected date.
Currently, 29 miles of the road are open to vehicle travel. Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
Hiker/biker access on the Going-to-the-Sun Road may change day to day dependent on snow removal and road rehabilitation work. Visitors are encouraged to check the park website for updates. Hikers and bikers should always be on alert for construction hazards and avalanche danger.