Pacific Storm Shuts Down Most of Olympic National Park

The Elwha River at flood stage on December 3, 2007, NPS photo.

The Elwha River at flood stage on December 3, 2007, NPS photo.

If this keeps up, we're going to have to redefine the "100-year storm." For the second time in 13 months Olympic National Park has been hit hard by a Pacific storm.

Heavy rains and winds gusting to nearly 90 miles an hour pounded the park yesterday and forced officials to close all but the Kalaloch area of Olympic today. It was just over a year ago, in November 2006, when another powerful storm walloped Olympic, Mount Rainier National Park, and Glacier National Park.

Today crews in Olympic are having to cut their way through numerous downed trees to open access to the park so they can assess damage and begin repairs.

With Highway 101 closed at Lake Crescent and Highway 112 only recently reopened, park staff has been challenged in reaching the park’s west-side destinations. At one point today maintenance and ranger staff were ferried across Lake Crescent by boat in order to reach the park’s west side.

Here's a look at some of the known damage in Olympic:

* Hurricane Ridge Road – Crews have cleared two rockslides from the road and are assessing possible damage to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Wind speeds of up to 86 miles an hour were recorded at the ridge on Monday. The Heart O’ the Hills campground remains closed due to earlier damage from the November 12 windstorm.

* Elwha – The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed at the park boundary as crews continue to assess flood damage. The Elwha River reached record height Monday, when it peaked at 24.65 feet, which is 4.65 feet above flood stage. The previous high stage was recorded in November 1949, when the river peaked at 24.2 feet at the McDonald Bridge gage. The river rose 14 feet in the 24 hours that preceded its record-setting stage. At the river’s peak stage, 32,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was flowing past the McDonald Bridge gage; 24 hours earlier, the flow was only 658 cfs. The river level continues to drop today and was predicted to drop below flood stage this afternoon.

* Rangers report that many sites in the Altair campground have been washed away by the high flows.

* Lake Crescent – Highway 101 is closed around Lake Crescent between Mileposts 222 and 232; the westbound lane of Highway 101 was severely damaged when a debris flow blocked a culvert and diverted water over the road about four miles west of Barnes Point.

* Sol Duc Road – A mudslide 5 feet deep and 60 feet wide is covering the Sol Duc Road about a half-mile south of Salmon Cascades. Damage beyond that point has not yet been assessed.

* Hoh Rain Forest – The Hoh Road is closed, with water flowing over the road at Snyder Creek within the park as well as outside the park boundary. Just over 14 inches of rain were recorded at the Hoh Visitor Center in the past 48 hours.

* Mora – The Mora area remains closed pending damage assessments.

* Quinault Rain Forest – Over seven inches of rain fell in the Quinault Valley between December 2 and 3 and high winds toppled many trees. The North Shore Quinault Road is closed by downed trees and electrical lines and crews are working to reopen the road. The North Fork and Graves Creek roads remain closed.

* Ozette – The Hoko-Ozette is closed with downed trees and power lines.

* The Dosewallips, Staircase and Queets Roads remain closed due to previous damage and unsafe conditions. The Deer Park Road is closed for the season.

For current road information, people should call the Olympic National Park recorded road and weather information line at 360-565-3131.