OKANOGAN – The winter closure gates swing closed on the State Route 20 North Cascades Highway at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in advance of heavy snow storms expected during the next several days.
Road conditions, avalanche danger and weather forecasts will be reassessed on Monday to determine if SR 20 can be reopened for Thanksgiving week. The National Weather Service is predicting up to 22 inches of snow by Thursday, Nov. 17, with more weather systems bringing more snow through the weekend.
Maintenance crews for the Washington State Department of Transportation worked around the clock since Friday plowing and sanding the 3 to 5 inches of snow that has fallen each day since then. This morning at Washington Pass, 4 inches of new snow on the pavement greeted the dawn, and more than 20 inches accumulated on the shoulders.
Last year, the highway closed for the winter season on Dec. 1. The 37-mile winter closure zone begins seven miles east of Diablo Dam at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (elevation 4,855 feet) to nine miles west of Mazama at milepost 171 below Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 feet).
The highway reopened May 23, marking the second latest in the highway’s 39-year history. SR 20 typically reopens between the last week in March and the first week in May. The earliest opening ever was March 10, 2005. In 1976, a drought year, it remained open all winter.
Visit the North Cascades web page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades and the North Cascades Flickr - photo site: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157623371473447/