A giant wind storm has knocked over 15 giant sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park in California in one of the most damaging storms in the history of the park.
The wind storm, coming from a regional weather pattern known as the Mono Winds, originated on January 18, with the National Weather Service reporting gusts topping out at 110mph in Cascabel Heights, just 20 miles south of the southern part of Yosemite near Oakhurst.
Park officials initially thought two sequoia trees were felled by the storm, but they upped that number to 15 on Thursday, a difficult blow for the Mariposa Grove forest in the park.
The sequoia trees date back over 2,000 years and are some of the tallest living things in the world, standing as tall as 285ft.
At least 15 giant sequoias fell in Yosemite National Park last week, damaging boardwalks and other structures
The giant sequoias were felled by the Mono Winds, a regional weather pattern that caused gusts as high as 110mph
‘We have extensive damage in the park,’ Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said, according to The San Jose Mercury News. ‘Millions and millions of dollars. There could be more giant sequoias down. We are continuing the damage assessment.’
Around 500 mature sequoia trees live in Mariposa Grove, which is divided into an upper and lower section. Eight of the downed trees are in the upper grove and seven of the downed trees are in the lower grove.
This section of the park is expected to be closed for the foreseeable future, with boardwalks, a restroom, and a myriad of other facilities damaged by the trees.
Mariposa Grove recently underwent a $40 million renovation project, which was completed three years ago.
At least 20 homes and cars were damanged by the falling sequoias, which can reach up to 285ft in height at Yosemite
The wind also caused a wide array of damage across the region. Pictured: A tree fallen over in Van Nuys
Yosemite National Park was forced to close due to the wind, with plans of reopening over the coming weekend scrapped
‘We’re thankful that nobody got hurt,’ Gediman said. ‘It’s our hope we’ll see new trees germinate. It’s part of the ever-changing nature of the park.’
None of the named trees, including the Grizzly Giant or the Columbia Tree, were knocked over in the wind storm.
The park was going to reopen over the weekend, but a snowstorm earlier this week did further damage, delaying the park’s reopening to Monday at the earliest.
Overall, around 20 homes and cabins were destroyed near Wawona and around 20 cars were damaged.
Of the 15 sequoias known to have fallen in Mariposa Grove, eight were in the upper section and seven were in the lower part
The wind storm is one of the worst weather events in the history of Yosemite National Park, causing widespread damage
Mariposa Grove has only been reopen for a few years after a $40million renovation that concluded in 2018
It’s the worst storm for Yosemite National Park since 1997, when floods necessitated $200million worth of repairs to the park.
‘I used to say sequoias are too big to fail,’ said Yosemite Conservancy president Frank Dean. ‘But in the last few years, it’s pretty scary to see how many have been taken out.’
The Fresno Bee reports that there was extensive damage to the surrounding communities from the wind storm as well.
There were at least 93 reports of property damage in Madera County and 68 homes damaged in the Bass Lake basin.
The wind damage was further exacerbated by snow last week, which delayed the reopening of Yosemite National Park
While it’s expected for Yosemite National Park to reopen on Monday, Mariposa Grove will likely remain closed for some time
Yosemite National Park is one of the prized treasures of the United States, preserved before the National Park System existed
‘It sounded like a freight train,’ Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler said of the wind. ‘It sounded like thunder rolling. It was like an earthquake coming in the distance from miles away. It shook our house.’
In the Yosemite region, there were over 21,000 cases of power outages, PG&E reported.
The Yosemite Grant Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, preserves Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, and was instituted before the National Park System arrived.
The Mariposa Grove Museum, a cabin inside the grove, is on the National Register of Historic Places.