With winter storms heading toward Yosemite National Park, its epic back entrance, the Tioga Pass, will close tonight, park officials have announced. The National Weather Service is anticipating three winter events that could lower the snow level to 4,000 feet by Saturday evening.
The first storm, expected to arrive Thursday afternoon, will bring the heaviest snowfall, followed by two others on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Tioga Pass, which reaches nearly 10,000 feet, is the only east-facing entrance road into the year-round park. For travelers needing to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the closest pass to the south is 200 miles away, but a number of passes can be found to the north en route to Lake Tahoe.
The pass will close at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday and will only reopen if weather conditions change. During heavy snow years, it can be closed for several months, sometimes between October and May. But unlike last year, the snowpack this year has been one of the lowest on record so far.
Update: This is the latest the pass has been open in recorded history, according to Mono County's tourism office.