Collapsed Yosemite buildings illustrate extent of storm damage as crews continue work to reopen Tioga Road

Yosemite National Park officials showed the damage to buildings accessed by Tioga Road as they provided an update on the road reopening efforts on Friday, July 14, 2023. (Yosemite National Park)

As the monumental work continued to clear Yosemite National Park’s popular Tioga Road of the debris and snow from the severe winter storms, park officials were getting a clearer picture of the extent of the damage left in the storms’ wake.

Yosemite shared photos of the clean-up process as crews made progress toward reopening the iconic, scenic road, which served as an extension of Highway 120 through the park. 

The good news was that workers have been able to clear snow off Tioga Road all the way to Tioga Pass. But the bad news was there was still much to do before the park could allow public access to the road. 

One image showed rooftops of buildings crushed and collapsed by the record snow the region received.

"The majority of structures accessed by Tioga Road experienced damages," Yosemite officials shared on Facebook on Friday along with photos.

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There was another image illustrating just how much snow fell, showing a park worker standing on several feet of snow, shoveling away, so visitors will be able to access trash and recycling bins. 

It was an unusual scene, more appropriate for a snapshot from a December day, not one from mid-July. 

Yosemite crews have been clearing snow from areas as part of ongoing efforts to reopen popular Tioga Road.  (Yosemite National Park)

"Crews working to clear access to trash and recycling; an essential task prior to opening the road," officials said.

In addition to clearing snow, park crews were also dealing with removing debris, including massive boulders that had fallen onto the roadway. 

Yosemite crews were working to clear boulders and other debris from Tioga Road, which has been closed because of winter storm damage.  (Yosemite National Park)

They were also busy clearing storm-weakened trees that were in danger of falling, making repairs to damaged buildings, and carrying out safety inspections to other structures.

Another major discovery delaying the reopening of Tioga was a torn line in the sewage system. 

"The wastewater treatment plant cannot operate until the liner is repaired and groundwater level lowers," officials said, adding that the park was contracting for portable toilets and seeking other solutions to meet sanitation requirements.

Every year around mid-April, Yosemite has closed Tioga Road to clear it from the winter remnants, which the park said has typically taken one to two months. But this year will set a new record, surpassing the late July 1 reopening date in 2019. 

The snowpack also reached a new record, measuring 244% as of April 1.

As crews scrambled to make the widespread repairs and clear away debris and snow, Yosemite officials said they remained hopeful that visitors would get to enjoy Tioga Road again in the coming weeks.

"We are optimistic it will open before the end of the July," the park said, though officials warned that when the thoroughfare does open, motorists should expect delays as the ongoing storm repairs would continue.

On Friday, July 14, 2023, Yosemite park officials released photos of the damage from the severe winter storms as they updated the public on the efforts to reopen Tioga Road. (Yosemite National Park)

Yosemite park officials said snow has been cleared off Tioga Road all the way to Tioga Pass, bring the park closer to reopening the popular scenic route. (Yosemite National Park)