by: Chris Legeros Updated:
SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. - Snoqualmie Pass was reopened at 4:30 p.m. Monday after heavy snowfall and natural slides carrying mud, trees and other debris blocked Interstate 90 traffic in both directions.
The pass had been closed in a 72-mile stretch late Sunday and early Monday between North Bend and Ellensburg.
Washington State Department Of Transportation Regional Administrator Don Whitehouse said in a press conference early Monday afternoon that the summit had 16 inches of snow.
Video from WSDOT shows crews on Monday removing about 50 trees that were brought down on the road on purpose. The state hired a contractor to bring down the trees after another tree, heavy with snow and freezing rain, fell across the westbound lanes Sunday night. The pass was closed by 10 p.m., Whitehouse estimated.
All day Monday, trucks and cars parked along the shoulder of the road, passed only by people exiting at milepost 34.
"I'd rather be home but I'm stuck here," truck driver Jose Garcia said.
Around 1 p.m., Washington State Patrol escorted nearly 30 vehicles down the mountain.
Sgt. Bryan Ducommun said some were skiers or ski resort staff stuck at the summit overnight.
"They were extremely happy, very grateful," he said.
After clearing trees, WSDOT spent the afternoon doing avalanche control. Late Sunday night, an avalanche had covered the westbound lanes with snow 12 feet deep places.
"That warmer temperature increases the avalanche hazard," Whitehouse said.
He said with about 8,000 trucks crossing Snoqualmie Pass each day, WSDOT was moving as fast as possible to get it back open.
"Every hour that we're closed on Snoqualmie Pass, we know what an impact it is on the economy of this state," he said.
Highway 2 over Stevens Pass also was closed at times Monday morning for avalanche control.
The snow was falling so quickly Sunday that at times you could barely see the road near Snoqualmie Pass. Windshield wipers were freezing up every few minutes Sunday. By mid-afternoon, the state patrol reported 30 collisions or spinouts.
Shylo Shorthouse bought a new set of tire chains, only to watch them fail at the pass.
“The chain broke, so then we had to go ahead and repair the links. We repaired it and then the tire went flat," she said. A state trooper helped her with the chains.
A Department of Transportation worker took care of the flat, when Shorthouse discovered her spare didn't have enough air.
“He went back and put air into it for me," Shorthouse said, "and came back and rescued me and made sure I was safe."