Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Washington Pass -- Highway 20 Closed!

AAI just received the following email from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WENATCHEE – A weekend forecast for 1-1/2 to 3-feet of snow, high winds and much colder temperatures beginning Friday has prompted the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to temporarily close the North Cascades Highway at 7 p.m. Thursday night, December 11th. Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker says, “Avalanche chutes can fill and release in as few as 20 minutes under the right conditions which is faster than we can react to keep motorists or our crews safe. We don’t want to risk back country recreationists getting caught in a potentially dangerous storm event either. We’ll go back in on Monday and evaluate conditions for reopening.”

Becker says crews will check all the parking areas between the two closure gates to “make sure everyone is out.” While the storm front isn’t expected to bring the heavy snow until Friday afternoon, “Having the gates closed Thursday night will keep anyone who didn’t get the word from getting up there and caught in the weather event that’s coming.”

Four inches of new snow fell overnight. “Rainy and Washington passes are 1,000 feet higher than Stevens and 2,000 higher than Snoqualmie so typically, they get more snow, sooner and it’s colder,” according to NCRegion Avalanche technician Mike Stanford. The key to reopening is stability of the snow in the chutes and that will depend on how much snow comes down and the temperature. Stanford says, “By Monday, we could be looking at avalanche chutes with firm and stable snow or dangerous layers of unstable snow.” If it can be reopened, it will likely take crews a day or more to clear the roadway for traffic.

SR 20 is gated closed between milepost 134, seven miles east of Diablo Dam on the west side of 4,855’ Rainy Pass and milepost 171, nine miles west of Mazama on the east side of 5,477’ Washington Pass.

The North Cascades Highway usually closes between Thanksgiving week and mid December, re-opening in late April or early May. The highway closed last winter on December 4th and reopened last spring, on May 1st.

Visit the North Cascades Web page: that includes the opening and closing dates since the highway first opened in 197

No comments: