Monday, December 15, 2008

Highway 20 Closed for the Season!

AAI just received the following email from Jeff Adamson at the Washington State Department of Transportation:

Hi all,

We got 14" of new snow (bringing the roadside total between Rainy and Washington passes to 30"), but we didn't get any major slides. Avalanche Control tells me that's due to the -5 degree temperatures which is keeping it stable at the moment. At the same time, Avalanche says the only prudent thing to do is leave it closed. In a nutshell, it would take well into Tuesday to clean up the 37 miles of highway between the east and west closure gates.

Unfortunately, the next front is forecast to begin dropping what could be between 12 and 16 inches of new snow starting between midnight and 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. That snow, coupled with the forecast wind, will form an unstable layer putting the avalanche danger "way too high". The forecast then calls for a break on Friday, followed by another front on Friday night that will bring a lot more snow (described in the forecast as "mammoth"!).

On the bright side - the highway stayed open a week and a half later than last year. On the not so bright side - the avalanche danger is probably going to inhibit a lot of back country recreation between now and Christmas until all the chutes fill and dump and then we get a break in the weather. Check with the Forest Service or Park Service before you go.

WSDOT won't have anyone working beyond the gates and we'll no longer being doing pass reports for a closed pass. The links on the North Cascades Highway web page to the cameras at Newhalem and Winthrop and the backcountry weather station near Washington pass, as well as the weather service forecasts will still be useful as you plan your outings. Unless something unusual happens - don't expect more of these emails until sometime in late February or early March when the Avalanche crew does their spring opening assessment trip. Be safe, Jeff

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