Crews continue snow removal, erosion repair on Maunakea Access Road

  • The Gemini Telescope on Tuesday afternoon, as seen from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope webcam.
  • Maunakea gave some early risers a quick peek Tuesday of the first snow of the decade. Photo: Tim Wright

Crews continued to work Tuesday to repair and clear the Maunakea Access Road, which has been closed to the public since Friday because of the first snowfall of the decade.

“There’s no gauge up there, but probably about two feet of snow fell,” said Stewart Hunter, Maunakea Support Services general manager. “It was windy and a lot of it has drifted, and it drifts into the low places. The snow drifted up to seven or eight feet across the road in places. In some places up higher, there is no snow at all.”

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The road remained closed at the Maunakea Visitor Information Station, which is at the 9,200-foot level of the mountain. The snow and ice on the road is well above that point, Hunter said.

“Sometimes, the snow will extend way down,” he explained. “There’s just a little bit of a cap at the top. The rest of it came down as rain.”

Hunter said the rain caused erosion damage to some lower sections of the road not covered in snow or ice, and his staff is split into two work crews.

“Some of them are working up at the top on snow removal. And the other part (is) working down below, repairing the erosion damage to the gravel road,” he said.

On the Maunakea Weather Center website, meteorologist Ryan Lyman said moisture and instability in the air mass between late today and Friday afternoon “will significantly raise the stakes on extensive fog, ice and flurries at the summit during that time.”

“There is also a possibility for short periods of moderate/heavy snow at the summit mainly for Thursday night,” Lyman wrote.

In an email, Lyman said that amount could be “up to another 6-8 inches, maybe.”

Lyman also disputed media reports that almost 25 inches of rain fell at the summit.

“It was probably less than two inches,” he said.

Hunter asked those who want to visit the summit “to pay attention to the weather and road conditions on the Maunakea Weather Center site.”

“As soon as we can get the road repaired and clear, so it’s safe for people to come up, we will open the road,” he said.

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Call 935-6268 for the latest road update or search in your web browser for Maunakea Weather Center for weather and road conditions.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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