Our Northwest

Avalanche danger high today and tomorrow in passes

Thursday, March 30, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

snowslide on I90 near Snoqualmie PassHeavy mountain snowfall today followed by rain could trigger avalanches and pass closures, says the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

The upshot: Wazzu students driving west for spring break should consider rescheduling their trips, or take a lowland route through the Columbia Gorge.

Up to seven inches of snow Thursday morning could clog White, Snoqualmie, and Stevens passes. By the afternoon and into Friday the snow will switch to rain, followed by heavy, wet snow.

WSDOT notes that's a recipe for the type of avalanches that closed all three of Washington's main passes for more than a day in early February. The closures came despite innovations that now give cross-state travelers safer passage.

Highway closures for pre-emptive avalanche control typically last from 20 minutes to 2 hours, says WSDOT. But closures from avalanches, or the tangible threat of an avalanche, will last as long as it takes to ensure safe passage.

avalanche bridge alongside Lake KeechelusAlready this year, Snoqualmie Pass has been closed by avalanches more than in the previous four years. That's despite motorists benefiting this winter from the new overpass alongside Lake Keechelus that carries vehicles above avalanche chutes that for decades had been notorious for dumping deep slides onto I-90.

Travelers can check WSDOT's mountain pass webpage for updates on conditions and requirements for traction tires, 4WD, or chains.

Photos courtesy of WSDOT

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