Avalanches are a thing mountain-bound June Lake residents know a lot about.
The community has had to evacuate some parts of town following the occasional big storm. It had even found itself trapped when avalanches closed the one road in and out of the community.
Even with such past experiences, June Lake residents don’t always feel fully prepared and constantly crave information.
“There were years when we just didn’t know what might happen, when there was no one collecting or giving out good information,” said June Lake’s County Supervisor Vikki Bauer.
“We just didn’t have anyway to predict them. With half my people in the path of avalanches, it’s very important for June Lake to get the most updated information possible.”
In the past few years, the situation improved after a small nonprofit, the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, was established. Staffed by local hydrologist and backcountry skier expert Sue Burak, and supplemented by other volunteers, the group posts weekly and/or daily (when avalanche danger is high) predictions and summaries.
The center has been helpful to June Lake and the rest of the Eastern Sierra’s many avalanche-prone areas and Bauer wants it to stay that way.
When members from the center came to the county supervisor meeting Tuesday and asked for funding to help continue operation for another year, Bauer was the first to say yes.
“I remember a few years ago having to evacuate half the town,” she said. “This is important and now that you (the avalanche center) is doing this work, I’m beginning to have confidence that we can protect our community. I believe we have to be diligent and keep this going and I’m willing to go for the whole thing to do so.”
The Town of Mammoth Lakes, Mono County, CalTrans, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service (among others) rely on the weekly and/or daily information Burak sends out, Bauer said.
The other supervisors argued that’s exactly why the county alone shouldn’t foot the whole bill.
“What is our fair share?” asked District 1 Supervisor Larry Johnston. “There are 13 organizations that use this information.” Maybe they all could contribute, he said.
Bauer agreed that finding other sources of revenue for the center was important, but said if no other agencies can be convinced to supplement the avalanche center, the county should continue to do so.
“I’m not so sure we aren’t already the secret to success to this program,” she said, pointing to the fact that the county’s steady support has helped the avalanche center to continue its work.
On Wed, the county agreed to give the center $3,000; the full amount requested after the center and forest service re-evaluated their request.
What does the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center do?
•Offers free predictions, condition updates by trained hydrologist
•Mostly volunteer supported
•Covers Bishop Creek to June Mountain area