Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yellowstone National Park Winter Storm Travelers Stranded

Yellowstone National Park Winter Storm Travelers Stranded, A potent winter storm that descended on Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks this weekend stranded more than 150 travelers and led a snowboarder astray into the backcountry of Grand Teton.

At its height, the storm forced the closure of the main route from Grand Teton into Yellowstone — U.S. 26/89/91 — a move that stranded roughly 160 travelers between Moran Junction in Grand Teton and Flagg Ranch in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway near the south entrance of Yellowstone.
“Due to whiteout conditions caused by high winds and blowing and drifting snow, Grand Teton snowplow operators were unable to keep open a 22-mile stretch of highway between the Jackson Hole Airport and Moran Junction, 30 miles north of Jackson,” Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said Sunday afternoon. “Out of concern for traveler safety, park rangers closed the main highway at 1:45 p.m. Marooned travelers were provided emergency shelter, food, and makeshift accommodations at Signal Mountain Lodge, Flagg Ranch, and the Moran Elementary School.”
As the storm worsened Saturday afternoon, authorities determined “it was unsafe for motorists to travel beyond Moran Junction to Jackson, and so arrangements were made for overnight accommodations between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch Resort, located 55 miles north of Jackson,” said Ms. Skaggs.
“Flagg Ranch provides partial winter services, but it does not currently offer winter lodging; nevertheless, about 120 people were given shelter to see them through the night,” she said in a release. “Although not open to the public during winter, Signal Mountain Lodge harbored about 25 of the stranded travelers. In addition, a dozen people used the Moran School as a temporary safe haven until the road reopened early Sunday morning.”
To help keep the stranded travelers warm and somewhat comfortable, Teton Interagency fire staff gathered emergency gear, cots, and sleeping bags from the Colter Bay fire cache and Moran Fire Station for their use.
“Park rangers staffed highway barricades throughout the stormy night and rerouted motorists to the provisional shelters,” said Ms. Skaggs. “Rangers at the Jackson Hole Airport Junction barricade advised travelers to return to Jackson, eight miles south, for overnight lodging. As conditions improved slightly, the highway closure shifted about 7:30 p.m. from the airport junction to Moose Junction, 12 miles north of Jackson, making it possible for some residents of the Moose area to return to their homes.”
Early Sunday morning saw the park’s snowplow drivers back at work, and by 7 a.m. two-way travel on U.S. 26/89/91 was restored.