Ebbetts, Sonora passes won’t open for weeks
It will be three to five weeks before Ebbetts and Sonora passes will be cleared of snow and reopened, according to the California Department of Transportation.
Officials said the department strives to clear the passes by the Memorial Day weekend. This is the first time in a decade that Sonora Pass won’t be open and only the second time in a decade that Ebbetts Pass isn’t open by the holiday.
Eastbound travelers on Ebbetts Pass can go to the east end of Lake Alpine, while eastbound travelers on Sonora Pass can go as far as Kennedy Meadows.
Crews are approximately a mile from the summit on the east side Sonora Pass and about three miles from the summit on the west side. The snowpack is estimated to be 12 to 15 feet on the highway.
Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, is still being cleared inside the park, with no estimate for opening.
Caltrans’ maintenance crews began clearing the mountain passes in April and are working on a seven-day-a-week schedule. They have encountered snow drifts up to 40 feet high, some the result of winter avalanches that sent hillsides of snow, boulders and trees spilling onto the highways.
“Even during years of light snow, Ebbetts Pass and Sonora Pass are challenging when it comes to clearing, repairing and opening the roads,” officials said. “Ebbetts has grades in excess of 23 percent and Sonora has grades that top 20 percent, far beyond typical highway grades of 6 percent. The steep grades, high elevation and narrow lanes on these highways are unable to accommodate snow removal equipment and vehicular traffic at the same time.”
Opening the passes involves clearing snow, trees, shrubs, rocks and other debris that accumulate over winter, while Caltrans inspects the road and makes repairs.
For the latest in highway information, call 1-800-427-ROAD (7623).