Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Thousands of fallen trees in the Sierra

Last November the Sierra Nevada experienced extremely high winds that resulted in tens of thousands of fallen trees in the Tioga Pass, Reds Meadow/Devils Postpile, and Mammoth Lakes Basin areas. The mild winter and spring allowed Forest Service crews to begin clearing the damage right away, but it remains extensive.

Reds Meadow was hit particularly hard and remains closed to all public access by vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians in order to ensure the safety of both the public and also the crews working to clear downed trees. There is currently no projected opening date for Devils Postpile/Reds Meadow; this affects Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail hikers.

At least half of the Reds Meadow valley’s 45 miles of trails were densely covered in fallen trees. Roads, picnic areas, campgrounds, toilet buildings, bear boxes, and fire rings were also damaged. Progress has accelerated recently with the addition of crews and volunteers from the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Student Conservation Association, Back Country Horsemen, AmeriCorps, and Friends of the Inyo. This June 3 work report provides detailed information about recent clearing progress.

On November 30, 2011 local weather stations indicated that wind speeds did not drop below 120 miles per hour (mph) for three hours, and that gusts exceeding 180 mph battered the top of Mammoth Mountain. Usually high winds blow from the west in the Sierra, but this windstorm blew steadily from the north, uprooting trees that have adapted to withstand westerly winds, not northerly winds. If you visit the Sierra this summer you’ll likely notice the fallen trees; keep a lookout for them.

If you are in the Eastern Sierra tonight, Monday June 11, you can get more information at the “Blowdown 2011 Event Lecture” with National Weather Service Meteorologist Rhett Milne at 7:00pm at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center Auditorium.