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Yosemite Death Highlights Concerns Rangers Have for Public

A ranger stands in a grove of knocked-down trees near Rainbow Falls after the November 30, 2011 wind storm | Photo: Courtesy Inyo National Forest

A trio of winter storms took to the Sierra Nevada Mountains this weekend claiming at least one life in Yosemite National Park. The incident exemplifies the dangers that persist in some mountain areas after a wind storm wreaked havoc across the state last November.

"The real danger is that a lot of trees haven't completely come down. They are hanging, still buckling," said Nancy Upham of the Inyo National Forest, which abuts Yosemite, on Friday. "More wind will push the trees over eventually."

Downed trees | Photo: Courtesy Inyo National Forest

Sustained winds reached at least 150 mph on Mammoth Mountain within the forest during the November 30 storm. 400 to 500 trees were downed in the Mammoth Lakes Basin and neighboring Reds Meadow Valley, home to Devils Postpile National Monument.

Upham explained that the lack of snow earlier this winter has allowed the Forest Service to get a head start on clearing out debris, but snow brought in this weekend may slow or halt progress. The Pacific Crest and John Muir trails are both impassable out of Reds Meadow, and much of the surrounding area has sustained damage. "We definitely know that we have our work cut out for us next summer," she added.

On Saturday a part-time National Park employee died when a tree was uprooted by winds and fell onto his tent cabin, according to the Associated Press. The 27-year-old man worked as a park ranger during the busy season and was working for a winter concessionaire.

Upham on Friday said forest visitors, many who will be cross-country skiers at this time of year, should be aware of their surroundings. "People need to be alert. . . Be safe, tune in; trees could come down."

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