PORT ANGELES — After a monthlong hiatus, Hurricane Ridge Road and its chalet-like visitor center will be reopened Friday, weather and road conditions permitting, acting Olympic National Park spokeswoman Penny Wagner said Wednesday.
Visitors should call 360-565-3131 Friday for information on what time the road will open.
If conditions allow, the road is scheduled to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will be staffed Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Beginning June 23, it will be staffed daily through Sept. 30.
Heavy snow, compounded by the lack of a snow removal crew, and limited law enforcement staffing have closed the road for all of April, Wagner said.
“It’s been kind of an atypical April as far as snow load, for sure,” Wagner said.
Snow was measured at 107 inches at Hurricane Ridge on Wednesday afternoon, about 7 inches more than average, said Garth Ferber, an avalanche meteorologist with the Northwest Avalanche Center in Seattle.
Wagner said she did not know what road conditions were as of Wednesday morning.
“Depending on the conditions, they will swing the gate open as soon as they can,” she said.
“We have to see what the conditions are that day.”
Drivers will not be required to have chains available for use, Wagner added.
“That’s part of the issue with April,” she said, citing safety concerns.
Josh Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Seattle office, said temperatures at the Ridge will fluctuate between about 28 and 39 degrees Friday through Sunday with a 20 percent chance of precipitation.
“The weather looks like it will be a little bit nicer on Friday and Saturday than it currently is,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
The scenic byway stretches 12.4 miles from the park entrance at Heart o’ the Hills to the Hurricane Ridge summit, at 5,242 feet.
Access to the Ridge is limited during the shoulder months of April and November, Wagner said.
Wagner said a park crew is not dedicated to plowing the road after the winter season closes in March, when those workers turn their attention to road maintenance in other areas of the park.
Park law enforcement personnel are not available to open and close the entrance gate and have been busy with two recent search and rescue missions, Wagner added.
The snow level was at 4,000 feet Wednesday, Gerber said, predicting it will drop to 3,000 feet overnight.
“The snow level can fluctuate quite a lot this time of year, easily a thousand feet between the afternoons and nights,” he said.
“It has been snowing quite a bit in the south Cascades and especially Mount Hood in the last few days, but up at Hurricane, we have not had much snow.
“Unusual or dangerous conditions are not expected right now, but that can change day to day.”
The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will be opened and fully staffed weekly Thursdays through Sundays, with the road open 24 hours a day all week, weather permitting.
Gerber said there were several serious avalanches set off by skiers and snowboarders in the unrestricted backcountry of Hurricane Ridge this winter.
“We heard about more triggered avalanches this year,” he said.
“We’re probably getting more information, and there are more people up there.
“It’s up to individuals to have the skills and tools and education and forecast to keep themselves safe.”
Snowshoe enthusiasts had an easier time of it.
Hurricane Ridge Interpretive Supervisor Janis Burger, stationed Wednesday at the park visitor center off Mount Angeles Road, said she took 500 to 1,000 visitors on ranger-guided snowshoe walks this winter.
She said April is traditionally “the messy month,” hard on both park visitors and park staff.
“It’s hard talking to visitors who can’t get up the road,” Burger said.
“It’s an uncomfortable month for us, too.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.