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March 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

The pink flamingo has landed on North Cascades Highway

Floyd the pink flamingo stands sentinel along the snowed-in North Cascades Highway. (Washington DOT photo).

Floyd the pink flamingo stands sentinel for avalanche specialists and road-clearing crews along the still  snowed-in North Cascades Highway. (Washington DOT photo).

High up in the wilderness of the North Cascades, the pink flamingo is back.

A plastic pink flamingo, that is, the mascot of the avalanche specialists and highway crews that are getting ready to start clearing the  North Cascades Highway.

The two-lane highway (part of  State Route 20) climbs through some of Washington’s   most rugged mountain terrain.  Heavy snow closes it each fall, usually in November. As spring approaches, Washington Department of Transportation specialists check out the highway by snowmobile, assessing when they can start plowing dozens of miles of the two-lane road.

This year, the DOT hopes to start clearing the road on March 25; it usually reopens in May.  But since snow depth is less this year  – currently five feet at Washington Pass compared to 7.5 feet last year – it might not take the usual six weeks to clear the highway.

As they check out the highway and work, the pink flamingo helps.  Nicknamed Floyd, he was placed this week by the road sign at Washington Pass, the  5,477-foot high point of the still buried-in-snow North Cascades Highway.

“Floyd’s job is to stand at attention along the side of the road and warn our crews that they’re entering an avalanche area,” said the Washington DOT in a highway update. Yes, and to look pretty in pink in a wintery world.

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