When Marcia Rasmussen set out for a spring run on the trails of Sequoia National Park last week, it felt like just another season of backcountry training. But it hadn’t been just another winter. All of a sudden, the snow underneath her trail collapsed and she fell into an icy creek that swept her downstream. Trapped in a snow tunnel for three hours, she almost died of hypothermia before she was rescued. “It’s a very different situation up there than it has been in previous years,” Rasmussen, 51, said as she recovered from her frostbite. “The snow is very, very heavy and melting very late this year.”
The same snowmelt that put Rasmussen’s life in danger upstream is putting dam operators on edge downstream. Officials are continuously monitoring rising reservoirs and strategically releasing water from dams to prevent overflowing and flooding in the cities and farmland below the mountains.