It’s shaping up to be the latest reopening in 20 years for the North Cascades Highway. Up to 15 feet of snow has fallen in the last month and the avalanche danger is extreme, forcing the reopening to begin later than normal this year.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to begin clearing State Route 20 on Monday, April 11. The 34-mile stretch between the Skagit and Methow valleys has been closed since Dec. 1.
Last year, crews started clearing snow on March 22, and only four weeks later Tootsie Clark was serving her famous cinnamon rolls to the first drivers at the gate when it opened April 16.
WSDOT cannot shift the avalanche crew and snow-clearing equipment from Stevens Pass to the North Cascades Highway until the threat of snow and avalanche danger subsides. “We’ve received a third of a normal season’s snow total in just the last month,” said Avalanche Supervisor Mike Stanford. “We haven’t seen this much snow in years. Right now, there’s a lot of deep, unstable snow in the avalanche chutes above the highway.”
On the annual North Cascades assessment trip on March 17, crews found snow 60 feet deep burying the road below the Liberty Bell Mountain avalanche zone. Pictures are posted on Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157626170712679/.
The work is expected to take as many as six weeks to complete this year