State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, is the northernmost route across the Cascades in Washington. This scenic byway is part of the Cascade Loop, a 400-mile driving tour through the Cascades. WSDOT closes the North Cascades Highway in the winter when snow and avalanche danger threatens the safety of drivers and maintenance crews. On average, the highway is closed between late November and early December and reopens in the spring between late March and early May.
Clearing the North Cascades Highway is a significant effort each year. WSDOT crews will work 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, through April.
While it’s impossible to predict exactly when they will have it open – due to weather (the Cascades have gotten 32 more inches of snow in the last 21 days), avalanche danger, equipment breakdowns, and crew health – they are hoping they can match last year.
The highway reopened May 1 last spring and was closed for the season on Dec. 11. The cost to reopen the highway each spring typically runs from $200,000 to $250,000. WSDOT requires that climbers and skiers engage in frequent and varied spring skiing and climbing trips to make this a good investment :) .
A natural avalanche covering the roadway at mile post 165.
. . . Looking good! On Tuesday morning, this is the Lloyd Logging D-8 caterpillar cutting a pocket above the shoulder, below an avalanche chute along Cutthroat Ridge, so if any more snow slides, it won't end up on the roadway.
While clearing snow off SR 20, the crews see a lot of different wildlife. This time it was a rabbit. They said it's actually not uncommon for them to see rabbits along the snow-covered highway. They said that this particular rabbit was charging the snowblowers, and was following them as they worked.
Check out more photos on WSDOT's Flickr site!
Little (pre-powdered) snow donuts rolled their way down the hill and landed near our maintenance crews clearing snow from the highway.