Magan Reed , WSDOT communications, 360-905-2056
TOUTLE – Last week’s warm and sunny weather was a good reminder that winter is officially over. The Washington State Department of Transportation is giving drivers another reason to celebrate spring when the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway reopens Saturday, May 10.
“We had quite a bit of snowfall over the winter which led us to close the gates in November which is a bit earlier than usual,” said WSDOT Maintenance Supervisor Clark Sexton. “But spring was good to us and we didn’t have a lot of late-season snow, which made our job easier.”
Typically, WSDOT closes the highway, also known as SR 504, from the Hummocks Trailhead to the Johnston Ridge Observatory each year in December. By the time spring rolls around, crews are typically faced with 15- to 20-foot-tall snow drifts that can take up to two months to clear.
“Since we didn’t have to spend so long clearing SR 504, we’ve been able to focus resources on I-5 and other critical highways in Cowlitz County,” said Sexton, “and still reopen SR 504 in time for the anniversary of the 1980 eruption.”
WSDOT coordinates closely with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure SR 504 is open to drivers headed to Johnston Ridge Observatory in time for the annual May 18 event.