Snoqualmie, White and Stevens passes open after being closed for high avalanche danger

Snoqualmie, White and Stevens passes open after being closed for high avalanche danger
(WSDOT)

STEVENS PASS. Wash. — Snoqualmie, White and Stevens passes have reopened after being closed for avalanche danger.

On Monday evening, transportation officials said U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass closed from Scenic to Coles Corner due to an avalanche and continuing avalanche danger. The road remained closed overnight but reopened shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday. Chains are required.

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U.S. 2 at Stevens Pass, U.S. 12 at White Pass and I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass all closed Sunday at 6 p.m. due to heavy rains and increased avalanche danger, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced.

The passes remained closed overnight. White Pass reopened at 10 a.m. and Snoqualmie Pass reopened at noon Monday. Stevens Pass reopened around 2 p.m. Monday, but closed again Monday night.

Although the passes have reopened, heavy snow is in the forecast through Tuesday, so more closures and delays are possible, WSDOT says.

Avalanche control operations at Stevens Pass were in progress Monday morning. A photo from the scene showed huge amounts of snow had been brought down and needed to be cleared from the highway.

Stevens Pass is now open but chains are required.

Avalanche experts told KIRO 7 that so many pass closures had not happened in several years.

Washington state is not alone, as there are avalanche warnings in place in mountains all the way to Colorado.

A KIRO 7 crew got to talk with a trucker who came from Vancouver, British Columbia and is headed to Florida, but was stuck in North Bend.

“I will just take a break and wait for the safety of the road. We’ll just wait and see,” he said.

The threat of avalanches also forced the closure of ski resorts across the Cascades, such as the Summit at Snoqualmie, which closed at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Avalanche experts said the mixture of old and new weather is to blame for so many disruptions.

“The easiest way to think about it is strong over weak. We got good snowball making snow coming in or rain falling over cold snow,” an avalanche expert said.

Sunday marked the second time in less than a week that avalanche worries forced the closure of I-90.

If avalanches happen overnight, experts said they may not be a bad thing. That is because weak-unstable snow would be wiped out for good, lessening the threat of avalanches later in the season.

“I don’t know if we’ll be out of the woods but, in some ways, we’ll be able to put some of these deeper, weaker layers to rest.”