Wednesday, March 7, 2012
The news, conditions, access and prospects reports for March in Mt. Rainier NP are available on the photo guide, see the first section. The photo is from this morning (3/7/12), so it's evident snow is still the storyline with March, as it is throughout the NP. This year is similar to last year as snow is near or slightly above normal but also present at all but the lowest elevations and even then in some areas.
This time last year, the snow was approaching normal from a season then to date below normal, but afterward March into May was all about snow as we had a near record snowpack. This year appears to be similar but this is what March is about, dynamic weather that is difficult to forecast, so you have to antcipate, plan and prepare for the worst conditions.
March is the first of the transition months for the weather where winter will end in the lower elevations, usually clearing of snow up to about 3,000 feet in most areas, leaving snow above that elevation throughout the NP except the northwest corner which often clears higher earlier in the season.
But the southeast and northeast quadrants won't open until later as those areas quickly rise in elevation from the entrances in the NP and the highways are still closed for traffic. The highways and passes normally don't open until April but snow will still be present off the roads and on the trails.
With the normal snowpack the spring opening for the facilities usually starts just before the Memorial Day holiday and continues through June and into July as the snow clears from the mid-elevations to upper elevations, so expect the same as winter through March and April with the changes based on the onset of snowmelt and clearing in the areas for access.
I'll be updating the rest of the Web pages with the photo guide for the seasonal conditions for 2012 this month.