TWISP – The latest round of wintery weather on the State Route 20 North Cascades Highway was the knockout punch that will keep the road closed until next spring.
The Washington State Department of Transportation temporarily closed the highway Sunday, Dec. 1, due to heavy snowfall and high winds. After careful assessment today, WSDOT determined it would keep the North Cascades Highway closed 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 Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker.
Slides below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes, just east of Washington Pass, have been dumping snow onto the highway since Sunday. 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, WSDOT closed the North Cascades Highway for the season on Nov. 20. The 37-mile-long winter closure zone begins 7 miles east of Diablo Dam at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (elevation 4,855 feet) and ends 9 miles west of Mazama at milepost 171 below Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 feet).
Last spring, the highway reopened on April 16. The SR 20 North Cascades Highway typically reopens between the last week of March and the first week of May. The earliest opening was March 10, 2006. In 1976, a drought year, it remained open all winter.