published on June 16, 2017 - 2:29 PM
Written by Associated Press

(AP) — A rockslide at Yosemite National Park has created a commuting headache for hundreds of park employees and thousands of tourists who are forced to drive around the roadblock, pushing a typically short drive past gushing waterfalls and towering granite cliffs into a hourslong slog.

On most days, it takes 29-year-old Miranda Criche a half-hour to get from her home in a small community on the park’s fringe into Yosemite Valley, where she cleans carpets in park hotels.

But since the rockslide the size of a two-story house came crashing down Monday, she has been forced to take one of two alternate routes around the troublesome rock pile, adding many miles to her commute.

“It took me three hours to get home,” Criche said. “It’s a hassle.”

The 4,000-ton (3,600-metric ton) rockslide blocked one of three popular routes into Yosemite.

An estimated 5,000 park visitors use the Arch Rock Entrance on Highway 140 each day and will have to take the detour, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. He reported hearing few complaints from tourists, who understand the powerful forces of nature at play.

The road will be closed through the weekend, maybe longer if it requires major repairs.

The rockslide tumbled down from hundreds of feet up the mountainside. The slab first slid down the cliff and then hit a ledge, shattering into pieces, rangers said.

Shards of rock fanned out and knocked down part of a rock wall along the road. Park geologists estimate the largest boulder that landed on the road weighed 130 tons (120 metric tons), rangers said.

Luckily, nobody was hurt. A road crew is using dynamite to blast away debris that’s hauled off by dozens of big trucks, he said.

Until the work is done, up to 500 park employees who live in the communities of El Portal and Mariposa are working from home, staying overnight in the park or driving the long detour to two other entrances, Gediman said.

But Yosemite is open. Rangers are guiding tours, and hotels and campgrounds are running in the park that had more than 5 million visitors last year.

“Rock falls occur,” Gediman said. “It’s something that happens, and we make adjustments.”


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