by Sami Linden
During the afternoon of Sep. 28, a large slab of rock dropped into the valley floor of Yosemite National Park, interrupting many visitors’ day in the area. This was the second of two falls after the first one occurred the day before. Smaller pieces continued to break off the wall in the following hours. Both slides broke off of El Capitan, a popular rock climbing destination within the national park. Yosemite is known for its world-class rock climbing and each year the 3,000-foot rock wall attracts thousands of eager climbers.
Yosemite is a park known for its astounding geological formations, and it therefore experiences many rock falls per year. As seasons change from fall to winter to spring, water that freezes and thaws in cracks of rocks can lead to these falls. A small fracture can transform into a major crack after the expansion of freezing water. It is possible that both falls may have originated from the same weak point in the rock face.
On the other hand, it is less common for these rock falls to lead to injuries and fatalities. The incident on Sep. 27 killed a tourist by the name of Andrew Foster and severely injured his wife, whose name was not released. The pair were standing at the base of El Capitan at the time of the fall, and emergency personnel rushed both to the hospital immediately after locating them under the rubble. The following day, a piece of the fall plummeted through the windshield of a car, injuring a second couple. Although there were no deaths, one man was rushed to the hospital with head trauma after a piece of rock fell into the car.
After the impact of the falls, a thick plume of smoke filled the Yosemite Valley. In response, the National Park Service rerouted roads within the park and directed visitors to an entrance station away from El Capitan.
Although the event disrupted a couple days, it left no lasting permanent damage to the National Park itself.
(Sources: CNN, LA Times, National Park Service, NY Times)