MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes reopen, Stevens and White passes could open later this week

Jan 5, 2022, 9:37 AM | Updated: Jan 9, 2022, 11:08 pm

Crews with the Washington State Dept. of Transportation say White Pass and Stevens Pass will likely remain closed until at least Monday, maybe Tuesday. Snoqualmie and Blewett Passes reopened at 5 p.m.

WSDOT says Jan. 7-10, 2009 was the last time four mountain passes have been closed at the same time. Stevens was closed for two days, White and Snoqualmie for four days, and Blewett for two days.

Snoqualmie Pass

I-90 was closed from North Bend at milepost 34 to Ellensburg at milepost 106.

Now that I-90 is open, WSDOT is asking drivers to prioritize freight traffic.

“The opening is to get freight moving, not for general travel,” WSDOT tweeted.

Two narrow lanes are open with reduced speeds. Many shoulders and exit ramps are impassable. Drivers should be prepared to cross the pass without stopping, as there are no safe places to stop and many communities in the area are also buried in snow.

Crews used plows, blowers, and graders to clear snow and make sure hillsides are stable from potential avalanches. They’ve had to clear catch basins so that there’s room for melting snow and rain, and knock snow from overhead signs.

WSDOT says they brought in a tow plow  — Plowie McPlow Plow — from Spokane to help make quicker work. They also note that the area has received 292 inches of snow this season, as compared to a 5-year average of 154 inches (to date).

Blewett Pass

Blewett Pass was closed in both directions from milepost 149.7, at the junction with SR 970 and about 10 miles east of Cle Elum to milepost 178, 14 miles north of the summit.

Crews were successful with avalanche work. They used a blower and plows to clear US 97 Crews from Davenport sent a blower to help clear snow.

Stevens Pass

US 2 is closed from milepost 55, seven miles east of Skykomish to milepost 99 near the west end of Leavenworth.

WSDOT says there is a continued risk of avalanches. Additionally, power and cell service are out at the summit.

Crews say US 2 could be closed until as late as Wednesday. WSDOT says ice is four inches thick on the highway, and snow slides are 60-75 feet tall.

Mayor Carl Florea has declared a disaster in the City of Leavenworth due to unprecedented and record-breaking snowfall. The city received 36″ of snow in under 24 hours on Jan. 6, 2022.

The emergency declaration allows the city to use local resources that can aid quickly, instead of going through a normal bidding process, and is a pre-requisite for state and federal emergency aid funding.

White Pass

US 12 is closed from Packwood at milepost 135 and Oak Creek at milepost 183.

WSDOT says a substantial amount of snow and debris remains on US 97 that needs to be removed.

It’s unlikely that the highway will reopen before late Monday.

The WSU Pullman campus will cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday — Jan. 10-11 — to allow students time to return to Pullman safely for the start of the spring semester. The university says a large portion of students at the Pullman campus are from Western Washington.

Effects of the road closures

Some grocery store shelves are starting to feel the pinch of road closures. Cara Stinson drives a semi truck with a 53-foot trailer on I-5 every day between Olympia and Portland to make grocery deliveries to Trader Joe’s stores. She told KIRO Radio on Thursday that she had to pull over after driving into some major potholes on the freeway. Read more.

Monitor school closures and delays
Check the traffic cams
Mountain pass webcams

Flooding in SW Washington

A flood warning is in effect for the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor County through at least Tuesday morning with major severity expected. The National Weather Service says the river is expected to rise to a crest of 52.5 feet late Saturday night. It will then fall below flood stage early Tuesday morning.

The NWS wrote on its updates: “At 52.0 feet, the Chehalis River in Grays Harbor will cause major near record flooding from Oakville downstream to Grays Harbor. Deep and swift flood waters will inundate numerous farms and roads, including SR 12. High tidal levels at Aberdeen will worsen flooding along the lower reaches. Flooding will occur all along the river including headwaters, tributaries, and other streams within and near the Chehalis River Basin.”

In addition to the Chehalis river, there was flooding on the Satsop, Deschutes, Pilchuck, Skookumchuck, Skokomish, and Newaukum rivers, and moderate flooding on the Issaquah Creek. Read more about warnings from the NWS here. 

Both directions of I-5 were closed Friday morning in Lewis County for a 20-mile stretch between Grand Mount and US 12 south of Chehalis due to flooding, but reopened just before 1 p.m.

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter Thursday afternoon for people in Thurston, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties who may be forced to leave their homes. Anyone needing a place to stay can go to Centralia Middle School. Visit the Lewis County Emergency Management’s website here.

The steady rain and melting snow prompted the potential for landslides. A house in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood is sliding off of its foundation, with several other houses in the area also at risk. Firefighters rescued a man from the home. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center. A woman in the home was able to escape on her own. Read more.

 

Previous Friday updates:

1:30pm: KIRO Newsradio’s Nicole Jennings reports that while I-5 is open again, some of the exits might be closed.

The northbound I-5 off-ramp to Main Street/SR 6 in Chehalis will remain closed due to residual flood water in the area.

In addition to the reopening of I-5, SR 108 near McCleary in Mason County has reopened.

12:54 pm: All lanes of I-5 are now open after an earlier closure due to flooding. Other areas of Lewis County are still experiencing flooding.

12:49 pm: Crews at White Pass have been “moving cautiously with blowers down each side of the pass” on Friday. There are rocks, logs, and debris in the roadway. WSDOT says there is still no ETA to open.

12:40 pm: For any Lewis County resident who needs shelter, the Centralia Middle School is available. Visit the Lewis County Emergency Management’s website here.

12:34 pm: The last time all Cascade highways and passes, the Columbia Gorge, and I-5 were all closed was in February 1996, according to meteorologist Ted Buehner in an email to KIRO Radio. Canada 1 was also closed then.

Buehner said I-5 went under water through the Chehalis/Centralia area, and a landslide closed I-5 near Woodland. The passes saw heavy snow, while Southwest Washington and Oregon saw lots of rain.

“This scenario left Western Washington cut off with the exception of the bridges across the Columbia at Kelso and Astoria,” Buehner said.

12:21 pm: The Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers have major flooding Friday.

12:10 pm: In Lewis County, the following roads are closed:

  • SR 7 to SR 706 (Morton to Thurston County) – No oversized loads or vehicles over 10,000 GVW
  • SR 12 (White Pass) CLOSED – Due to snow
  • SR 6 – MP 50 West to Pacific County – CLOSED – Parts of roadway flood/underwater
  • SR 507 – CLOSED – Flooding (Chehalis to Thurston County)
  • I5 – MP 68 to MP 88 – CLOSED – Flooding in areas

In Cowlitz County, SR 411 is closed due to a landslide at MP 11 (Road runs between Kelso and Castle Rock). And in Klicktat County, SR 97 is open, but no oversized loads are allowed.

11:58 am: Trooper Will Finn shared photos on Twitter from Washington State Patrol pilots above the area in Chehalis, and from troopers on the ground.

11:39 am: Mayor Carl Florea has declared a disaster in the City of Leavenworth due to unprecedented and record-breaking snowfall. The city received 36″ of snow in under 24 hours on Jan. 6, 2022.

The emergency declaration allows the city to use local resources that can aid quickly, instead of going through a normal bidding process, and is a pre-requisite for state and federal emergency aid funding.

11:14 am: The WSU Pullman campus will cancel classes on Monday and Tuesday — Jan. 10-11 — to allow students time to return to Pullman safely for the start of the spring semester.

All mountain passes connecting the west and east sides of the state are expected to be closed until at least Sunday. The university says a large portion of students at the Pullman campus are from western Washington.

10:53 am: Amtrak train service has been halted between Portland and Seattle.

10:11 am: WSDOT says there are no good detours around the I-5 closure at this point. Delay your travel until further notice.

10:06 am: Some grocery store shelves are starting to feel the pinch of road closures. Cara Stinson drives a semi truck with a 53-foot trailer on I-5 every day between Olympia and Portland to make grocery deliveries to Trader Joe’s stores. She told KIRO Radio on Thursday that she had to pull over after driving into some major potholes on the freeway. Read more.

9:55 am: WSDOT reports more closures due to flooding:

  • SR 109 at milepost 2 near Hoquiam
  • SR 108 at milepost 5 near McCleary
  • SR 507 in Bucoda

8:21 am: KIRO 7 TV Meteorologist Nick Allard says most of the heaviest rain is done — or will be by the end of the day.

“We did get around 4 inches of rain yesterday in Olympia, had over 5, almost 6 inches of rain out at the coast yesterday, and quite of bit of rain everywhere,” Allard said Friday. “So I can tell you right now, the morning hours will be rainy and then will taper to showers, and then this afternoon, only a few around.”

The flooding concern for rivers will remain, Allard says, and a lot of them won’t recede until Saturday.

8:03 am: Both directions of I-5 are closed in Lewis County for a 20-mile stretch between Grand Mount and US 12 south of Chehalis. The closure is from milepost 88 to milepost 68 due to rising flood water from the Chehalis River. There is no word on when the road will be reopened.

7:28am: People who live in Thurston County’s Independence Valley have received evacuation alerts because the Chehalis River could see heavy flooding.

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter Thursday afternoon for people in Thurston, Lewis, and Grays Harbor counties who may be forced to leave their homes. Anyone needing a place to stay can go to Centralia Middle School.

“We’ve got about 20 flood warnings out now for various rivers around the area. Almost all of them are for south of Seattle,” NWS Meteorologist Dana Felton told KIRO Radio.

7:46 am: Several areas of Western Washington are seeing an increased flood risk Friday. There are major flood warnings on the Chehalis, Skookumchuck, and Newaukum rivers, and moderate flooding on the Issaquah Creek and Skokomish River.

A number of other area rivers are under minor-to-moderate flood warnings Friday, with waters possibly starting to recede by the afternoon.

6:32 am: In the Skokomish Valley area, floodwaters were rising fast on Thursday. Residents in flood-prone areas have been asked to evacuate. Emergency managers in Mason County say the Skokomish River is expected to rise above the 17-feet level into Friday.

Evacuation notice issued for Skokomish Valley area in Mason County over flooding

5:05 am: Four major mountain passes will now likely remain closed until Sunday.

“Conditions are too dangerous for crews to be in the pass areas,” WSDOT said on Twitter. “Snow and debris continue to slide onto the highways. Crews are working in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins and do other work to have those areas ready when we can reopen.”

Blame the weather, not vaccine mandates, for the current pass closures

A winter storm warning is in effect in the Cascade mountains until 4 p.m., and there could be another foot of snow Friday.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Snoqualmie and Blewett passes reopen, Stevens and White passes could open later this week