Heavy snow in Washington mountains

SEATTLE — Heavy snow in the Cascades is common this time of year, but forecasters were surprised by sudden, heavy bursts of snow.

Six inches of snow fell between 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday at Snoqualmie Pass and 8 inches fell between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Stevens Pass.

That made driving through the highway passes tough.

“Snow plows can’t keep up with that,” said meteorologist Andy Haner in the Seattle National Weather Service office.

Twenty-four hour totals ending at 5 a.m. Friday were 14 inches at Snoqualmie Pass, 21 inches at Stevens Pass and Mount Baker, and 18 inches at Paradise on Mount Rainier.

Total snowfall so far this year at Mount Baker is 102 inches, Haner said.

Snow also fell Friday in the eastern third of the state, including Spokane. But a “rain shadow” kept the Columbia Basin, including Moses Lake, in the clear.

The snow should taper off for a drier weekend across Washington, Haner said Friday. More rain and mountain snow are forecast to move in to Western Washington on Sunday afternoon and spread east by evening.

The heavy snow Thursday afternoon closed eastbound lanes of Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass for a time. Chains were required for a spell Friday morning, even on four-wheel drive cars, on the state’s main east-west highway. The Transportation Department changed that to a traction tire advisory for Snoqualmie Pass, as well as for Stephens and White passes. Big rigs still had to chain up, and oversize loads were prohibited until the roadways cleared.

The snow is good news to skiers and snowboarders and Cascade ski resorts.

The White Pass ski resort opened Friday. Stevens, Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain were already open but waiting for fresh snow.

Over 100 inches of snow have already fallen at Stevens Pass this season and the resort now has enough snow to open the entire mountain including Mill Valley (“The Backside”) Saturday. With a winter storm advisory in effect and up to 30 more inches of snow predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fall before Saturday, Mill Valley and the rest of the resort could look like a typical mid-winter snowpack by the weekend.

After 44 inches of snowfall in the past five days, Stevens currently has a 50 inch base while many of the nation’s ski resorts struggle with low snowpack. Stevens plans to open all food and beverage, rental and retail amenities along with all 1,125 acres of terrain this weekend.

The Summit at Snoqualmie, said that Summit West would open this weekend.

“It’s about the right time for that to happen,” Haner said.

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