Snoqualmie, Blewett passes reopen; White, Stevens passes remain closed
After being closed for almost four days due to extreme avalanche danger and record-breaking snowfall, Snoqualmie and Blewett passes reopened at 5 p.m. Sunday.
White Pass reopened at 3 p.m. Monday, but closed again at 5:30 p.m. due to a rockslide and unstable slopes west of the summit. The Washington State Department of Transportation said Monday that there is still “a significant amount of work to be done” at Stevens Pass, which is likely to stay closed until “at least Wednesday.” That’s due to “some of the largest snow slides on Stevens in recent memory.”
Snoqualmie Pass has started by prioritizing freight traffic and asks recreational and general traffic to delay their trips if possible. There are just two narrow lanes open with a 45 mile per hour speed limit in place, and traction tires are advised.
“This is vital to understand: the opening is to get freight moving, not for general travel,” notes a Twitter post Sunday from WSDOT.
Many of the shoulders, exit ramps, and chain up areas are still impassable, and access to restroom facilities will be limited. For that reason, 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 from Spokane to help make quicker work. The area has received 292 inches of snow this season, WSDOT reports, as compared to a 5-year average of 154 inches (to date).
I-90 between North Bend and Ellensburg is also back open after being closed since Wednesday night due to hazardous weather conditions and avalanche danger.
At Blewett Pass, which also reopened Sunday, crews were successful with avalanche work, using a blower and plows to clear US 97. Crews from Davenport sent a blower to help clear snow.
Blewett Pass had been 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.
WSDOT says Jan. 7-10, 2009, was the last time four mountain passes have been closed at the same time. Stevens Pass was closed for two days, White and Snoqualmie for four days, and Blewett for two days.