By Bill Sheets
The North Cascades Highway has closed for the winter.
The state Department of Transportation temporarily closed the highway on Sunday due to heavy snowfall and high winds. After reassessing the situation today, department officials decided it was safest to close the road for the season.
“It doesn’t take much snow to fill up the avalanche chutes, and we’d be taking a risk if we tried to keep the road open any longer,” said Don Becker, a maintenance supervisor for the department.
Slides below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes, just east of Washington Pass, have been dumping snow onto the highway since Sunday, according to the department. The largest slide was 12 feet deep and 150 feet wide.
“It’s just not safe for our crews or the public to be up on the highway,” Becker added.
Last year, the state closed the North Cascades Highway for the season on Nov. 20. The 37-mile-long winter closure zone begins seven miles east of Diablo Dam at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (elevation 4,855 feet) and ends nine miles west of Mazama at milepost 171 below Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 feet).
Last spring, the highway reopened on April 16. The state typically reopens the highway between the last week of March and the first week of May. The earliest opening was in 2006 on March 10. In 1976, a drought year, it remained open all winter.
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