Thursday, June 1, 2006
(06-01) 12:25 PDT El Portal, Calif. (AP) --
The central route to Yosemite National Park was closed after a rock slide buried Highway 140 under 300 feet of debris and threatened to knock out electricity to the park, officials said.
No one was injured in the slide about 12 miles from the park, but rocks continued to fall Thursday, preventing crews from removing an estimated 250-300 tons of debris, fire officials said. It was not clear when the road would reopen.
"It looks like the mountain moved right over the road," said Carrie Smith of the California Highway Patrol, who reviewed pictures of the slide. "It looks like there should be a tunnel there, but there's not."
The slide began as a trickle of rocks April 29 and forced sporadic road closures last month. The road reopened last week, but on Monday the intensity of the slide increased.
The slide, which is 600 feet long, 600 feet wide and 300 feet deep, threatened to topple two power line towers carrying 72,000 volts of electricity to the town of El Portal and the park, said Mariposa County Fire Chief Blaine Shultz.
The power lines are the only source of power to the small community and the park and if the towers collapse it could also spark a wildfire, Shultz said.
Motorists were advised to use alternate routes into the park. Highway 41 from the south and Highway 120 from the north were still open.
The closure, however, shut off the town of El Portal and made it difficult for the Mariposa County Unified School District to bus its students, county officials said.