Glacier National Park Reeling From Wintry Storm, Evacuations Being Considered

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The Sperry Chalet looked to be in a winter wonderland Wednesday morning/NPS

A powerful winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of Glacier National Park forced closure of facilities and areas in the park Wednesday, and officials were developing evacuation plans for some areas if conditions worsened.

While no areas of the park were being evacuated of visitors Wednesday afternoon, officials were drawing up contingency plans for the St. Mary area of the park to move 30-40 people out of Park Service administrative and housing areas, and for the Many Glacier Hotel.

The storm, which moved into the region Tuesday, has left a thick, wet coat of snow across the park's high country and heavy rains below. According to park spokeswoman Denise Germann, the following conditions exist in Glacier:

* St. Mary Campground has been closed due to standing and running water, and debris from Wild Creek and other run-off water. There were approximately 10 campers at the St. Mary Campground and all left Wednesday morning on their own, prior to campground closure.

* Access to the Kintla Lake area closed at the head of Big Prairie - 7 miles north of the Polebridge Entrance in the North Fork District of the park. Travel in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park was not advised at this time. There is standing water in several areas.

* The Red Eagle Lake Trailhead, near the 1913 Historic Ranger Station near St. Mary, was closed.

* Sand bags were deployed in the administrative area of St. Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park, responding to rising/flooding Divide Creek.

* No work was being conducted on plowing the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Crews moved plowing equipment to lower locations Tuesday as snow began to fall.

* Park Service employess at the Sperry Chalet reported 14-16 inches of snow since Tuesday morning. It was snowing again Wednesday at the chalet, which is located on the west side of the park, near the Continental Divde.

Park personnel were continuing to montitor and access the situation across the park, making preparations in the event of any evacuations and staging equipment to respond as needed.