Skip Top Navigation

North Central Region NewsBrief

Newsbrief Header

November 20, 2015

In this issue:

• On the road
• Stevens Pass still closed
• Wind & dust in the basin
• North Cascades closes for the winter
• Plan ahead for your Thanksgiving travel

Dan Sarles

Regional Administrator
WSDOT North Central Region

Stevens Pass still closed

US 2 Stevens Pass Closure point Summit of Stevens Pass

We are working to open US 2 between Skykomish and Stevens Pass to two way traffic as soon as possible, before Thanksgiving, even with a forecast for a snowstorm Monday night. 
Tuesday’s storm brought heavy rain to the mountains, washing away a significant amount of soil that supports the bridge about five miles east of Skykomish. There is no detour.

The water has now been rerouted so the bridge footings are accessible. WSDOT hired Granite Construction to complete the emergency work. They mobilized their crew and equipment today and are already installing a temporary support system to stabilize the southeast corner of the bridge.

The repairs are estimated to cost between $200,000 and $500,000. We’re seeking emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration for the repairs.

While the Stevens Pass ski area hasn’t opened yet, Leavenworth’s Christmas Lighting Festival starts Dec. 5 and we’re doing our best to make sure west side visitors can get there.

Travel related note:
Seven miles of I-90 at the Snoqualmie summit will be closed in both directions at 8:30 Sunday morning for an hour or more to remove trees above the freeway that have been partially uprooted by Tuesday’s winds.

Tuesday’s dust storm in the basin

Wind gusting to 80 MPH Tuesday forced closure of I-90 at times from Ritzville to Kittitas. Highways 17, 26 and 395 were also closed. Highway 26 and Adams Rd., the usual detour when 90 is closed from Vantage to George, closed for a time too, leaving no alternative route.

While huge wind and rainfall events were pushing rivers on the west side over their banks and uprooting trees, closing more than a dozen state highways, our troubles didn’t begin until 2 p.m. when wind (as predicted) increased and created a “zero visibility” condition on I-90 from Vantage east and also blew over semi’s on I-90, SR 17, 26 and 243. At 4 p.m. the State Patrol closed the 26/Adams Rd. detour for visibility and wind. That literally stopped all traffic movement (and we heard about it immediately from drivers. Our new social media tools – Twitter/Facebook - WORK). Also at 4 p.m., the closure moved west 20 miles to Kittitas and then was extended east from George all the way to Ritzville at 5 p.m. We reopened the Kittitas to George section about 7:30 p.m. with pilot cars, but the wind returned and we had to close it again until almost midnight.

The Grant County Public Utility District reported widespread power outages in Mae Valley, Quincy Valley, Royal and Wahluke Slopes. At Priest Rapids Dam they recorded gusts to 97 mph, and sustained 50 mph winds there and at Wanapum Dam.

Travel related note:
Across the Columbia River from Vantage, the two I-90 View Points (MP 139.6 "Wanapum"-EB & "Echo" WB), will be closed for the winter beginning Tuesday Nov. 24

North Cascades closes

Cutthroat Ridge #10 Cutthroat Ridge #10

On Monday, the temporary closure of the North Cascades became permanent when our avalanche and maintenance techs assessed the conditions created by four days of new snow, rain and ice.
Several slides down to the road and a forecast for at least four more feet of snow this week made it unsafe for drivers or our crews.

November 12 is on the early side of the highway’s closure date chart. In 2006 it closed on the 13th and in 2009, it closed on the 7th. Last year it closed on Nov. 24th. The earliest ever was Nov. 2, 1984. Due to the drought in 1976, it never closed at all.

Plan your Thanksgiving travel

Thankgiving Graphic
For those traveling over the mountains for Thanksgiving here’s the WSDOT recipe for safe, stress-free holiday travel: 

  • Check the Washington State Department of Transportation's best times to travel tips.
  • Get informed about WSDOT's online tools, including mobile apps, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit our online traveler information about traffic, weather and ferry schedules.
  • Follow WSDOT's social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Pre-program your vehicle radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Carry chains and other winter driving essentials. Check current chain and traction requirements at the WSDOT passes website, on highway advisory signs or by calling 5-1-1.
  • Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, drive safe and keep warm.

In the mountains, the North Cascades Highway is closed for the winter. Cayuse and Chinook Passes are temporarily closed. A decision on reopening them is still pending. Check the most current Washington pass conditions to see if Stevens is open or the conditions on Snoqualmie before heading out.

Once you get to the west side - the Evergreen Point SR 520 bridge will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, returning to weekday rates on Black Friday. Also, on the new I-405 express toll lanes, the free carpool requirement will be “two people” on Thanksgiving, returning to the “three person” requirement Friday.

Expect heavy holiday ferry traffic. The longest lines are expected westbound Wednesday afternoon and evening and eastbound Friday morning. Check the Ferries website,, or call (free) 888-808-7977 for details.

WSDOT is also adding two Amtrak Cascades trains Wednesday and on Sunday, Nov. 29, to the existing Thanksgiving schedule between Seattle and Portland. These trains require reservations. Visit or call 800–USA–RAIL for details.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving (no NewsBrief next week),

Dan Sarles

Regional Administrator, WSDOT North Central Region

If you have any questions on items in this NewsBrief, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Call me at (509) 667-3001 or send me an e-mail at: