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April 8, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Digging out the North Cascades Highway

A road sign peeks out of the snow at Washington Pass on the snowbound North Cascades Highway. (Washington DOT photo)

A road sign peeks out of the snow at Washington Pass on the snowbound North Cascades Highway. (Washington DOT photo)

High up in north-central Washington’s rugged mountains, crews are once again digging out the snow-buried North Cascades Highway.

The road is a scenic short cut, through craggy mountains and forests, between Western Washington and the Methow Valley and gives access to high-country hiking.

About 40 miles of the highway, also known as State Route 20,  is closed each winter because of  snowfall and avalanche danger. Clearing the road is a weeks-long effort each year, including setting off controlled avalanches so crews can work safely.

With recent milder weather, snow depth has already dwindled  from 10 feet to 7 feet deep early this week at the 5,476-foot-elevation Washington Pass.  But snow on the highway by the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes  averaged 35 feet deep, said the Washington State Department of Transportation

No word on exact opening day yet – there’s still miles of deep snow to clear – but the DOT hopes to have the road open by mid-May. You can get updates at the DOT’s North Cascades Highway website.

People from around the world follow the clearing of the highway through social media, said Jeff Adamson of the DOT.  While we’re used to deep, deep snow in the Pacific Northwest, lots of the world isn’t and finds the white stuff, and the heavy equipment used to clear the snow, mesmerizing.

Comments | More in North Cascades, North Cascades Highway | Topics: North Cascades Highway opening day, Washington DOT


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