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I-90, US 2 reopen after heavy mountain snow and avalanche danger

WSDOT crews clearing snow that could pose dangerous to drivers. (WSDOT_East on Twitter)

The snow may have finished falling in the lowlands Monday and Tuesday, but it wasn’t yet done in the mountain passes.

A helpful reminder on safe driving in winter conditions

National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Schneider said Tuesday that the mountain passes had already seen 12-18 inches of snow in the last 24 hours, and were expected to get another foot or more.

Schneider said avalanche danger is high, which, combined with heavy snowfall, is why Interstate 90 across Snoqualmie Pass in both directions was closed overnight Monday, and remained closed until about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The closure stretched eastbound from milepost 34 in North Bend to milepost 106 just west of Ellensburg, and westbound from milepost 70 near Easton.

Snoqualmie Pass is now open in both directions, and traction tires are required.

The Washington State Department of Transportation closed US 2 over Stevens Pass at about 1 p.m. Tuesday for the rest of the day in both directions, from milepost 55 to milepost 99.

“We can no longer keep up with the amount of snow falling, and conditions are getting worse,” WSDOT tweeted.

After reassessing conditions at 8 a.m., crews continued to clear the road with a goal of reopening the pass later this morning. As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, US 2 Stevens Pass has reopened with chains required. If your car is all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, you still need to carry chains.

“When we get this much snow this quickly, there’s a high avalanche danger, so they have to control that,” Schneider said about the dangerous conditions in the mountain passes.

“The driving conditions are obviously very difficult, and if you’re up there going skiing or just in the backcountry, it’s very dangerous because the avalanche danger is going be really high,” he added.

Drivers could take Blewett or White Pass instead. The latest update from WSDOT on Wednesday morning says Blewett Pass has clear skies, and the roadway is bare and wet with frost and ice in places. White Pass has overcast skies Wednesday morning, and traction tires are advised. The roadway is bare with wet with compact snow and ice in places.

Drivers could also get to eastern Washington by driving down the Columbia River Gorge.

The National Weather Service in Seattle says snow showers in the mountains are still lingering Wednesday, but that should taper off and end by the afternoon.

KIRO Radio’s Frank Shiers contributed to this report.

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