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Spring Reopening 2013

End of week two April 8
This page is updated weekly marking the east and west side crew's progress
reopening the North Cascades Highway.

2013 Flickr photo album

Scouting Report - March 5

Today we went up from the east side (at the Early Winters Information Center (MP 178) where the barricades had been set) to assess how much snow was in the avalanche chutes and when we could safely get our crews in to begin clearing the passes. It looks like we will start on March 25.  Read the news release

Day one - March 25

Early Monday morning, a five-man maintenance crew from Twisp and their collection of snow-clearing equipment headed west up State Route 20, past Mazama, to the winter closure point at the Early Winters Information Center. That marked the beginning of the first day of work to clear the North Cascades Highway from the east side.

The west side crew got about a week’s head start and had already blown 2 to 3 feet of snow off 14 miles of pavement above the Diablo closure gate. For the next couple of weeks, they’ll continue working up to mile post 148, widening the shoulders and clearing the ditches that will keep the snowmelt off the pavement. 

The east slope got about 20 inches of new snow over the last week, raising the total at Washington pass to nearly 6-1/2 feet. Using a Kodiak snow blower, road grader and a scoop loader, the east-side crew worked to clear the first seven miles of the highway between the Early Winters Information Center (MP 178) and the Silver Star gate (MP 171). Progress the first day, according to our reopening supervisor, Don Becker, completed clearing shoulder to shoulder from Early Winters where there was less than a foot of snow for 3 miles to MP 175. From there, crews completed 2 passes for 4 more miles to Silver Star Gate at MP 171 where the snow was less than 2 feet deep. Read the News Release.

Day 2 - March 26

The east side crew (Duane Wolley-Kodiak, Tyler Miller-Loader, Jesse Gurney-Road Grader) on Tuesday again found clear skies, but it started out cold - 22 degrees.  By afternoon, however, the sunshine generated another 30 degrees.  The crew widened guardrail to guardrail from MP 175 to MP 171, Silver Star Gate.  By the end of the day, they had completed two passes (lanes) to MP 169.5, about a mile below Lone Fir Campground.  Twisp Supervisor Don Becker said the snow depth had increased to more than 3 feet at that point.  No equipment breakdowns, no crew members down and no new snow equals a good day.

Day 4 - March 28

Week one was productive. The west side crew widened and ditched along the 14 miles that they have cleared. The east side crew cleared 11 miles by Thursday afternoon. Crew members completed 2 passes from MP 169.5 up to the Cutthroat Creek Trailhead at MP 167. Below that, the highway is clear, shoulder to shoulder. A D-6 caterpillar and an excavator joined the effort Thursday. At Cutthroat Creek, there is 38” of snow and Thursday afternoon it was 42 degrees, sunny with spotty rain showers.

Day 5 - April 1 - Week 2

Week two is underway. The west side crew widened and ditched along the 14 miles that they cleared. The east side crew worked in spring like conditions. By late afternoon it sunny and 62 degrees. The progress was impressive - from Cutthroat Creek trailhead at MP 167 to the CR10 avalanche chute at MP 165. More equipment joined the effort Monday. There was a Kodiak snow blower, a D-6 Caterpillar, a snow cat, an excavator, a loader and grader. On Wednesday a second Kodiak will be on site.

Day 6 - April 2 - Week 2

The west side crew repaired guardrail and ditched along the 14 miles that they cleared.The loader mounted snow blower was back on the job widening the top 4 miles from MP 144 to MP 148 from 1 lane to 2 and with snow 2 feet deep, cleared pavement to MP 150. On the east side, the second Stevens Pass Kodiak left Wenatchee and got to the work zone early enough in the afternoon to put in several hours of work. The snow cat, the excavator and the D-6 Cat were sent on ahead to Liberty Bell Mountain to start clearing the 35-foot deep piles of snow below those avalanche chutes. The crew cleared through the last two Cutthroat chutes (10 & 11) with 15 to 18 feet over the road and then completed a single lane another mile to the Annex (MP 164), near Liberty Bell Mountain.

Days 7 & 8 - April 3-4 - Week 2

Wednesday morning it was 31 degrees, but it warmed to a sunny 64 through the day as the eastside crew cut two lanes through 30+ feet of snow under a pair of the largest avalanche chutes above the highway, Liberty Bell-1 and 2. At the same time, the D-8 cat was about ½ way done with LB-3.

On Thursday,from the east, we ended the week with the highway cleared, full width, all the way to the Washington pass summit. There is 54” of snow at the centerline and it was overcast, raining and no warmer than 36 degrees all day.

The Avalanche crew made the crew quit working in slide areas at noon because the rain made the snow on the hillsides unstable. With a warm and rainy weekend forecast they expect to be clearing small slides all the way back up to the summit come Monday morning.
On Wednesday, the West side crew finished, ditching, fixing guardrail and cleaning full width, all the way to MP 150. On Thursday, a broken solenoid sidelined the snow blower for most of the day while mechanics got there and did their thing. Progress for the day only totaled another mile to 151, where they'll start Monday. 

Day 9 - April 8 - Week 3

The west side snowblower made it to mp 153, Monday. Snow is about 2-1/2 feet deep and very soft. One danger-tree had fallen across the roadway and had to be cut up and moved before snow blowing could continue.
On the east side, the crew spent much of Monday removing fallen danger trees and re-cleaning pavement where slides came in as a result of the rain and 8" of new snow that fell over the weekend. The crews are only 8-miles apart. On Monday it was overcast and chilly.

Day 10 - April 9 - Week 3

By the end of day Tuesday, the east side crew's clearing effort had progressed past Blue Lake Trailhead and Whistler (the last of the significant avalanche zones) to Bridge Creek at MP 159 under overcast skies in 50 degree temperatures by late afternoon. The starter on the second Kodiak snow blower broke, delaying the work a while.
The westside crew's clearing progressed to MP 154-about a mile beyond the Swamp Creek sand pile, meaning the crews are now 5 miles apart. New snow and wind is in the forecast for Wednesday which may slow progress a bit.

Day 11 - April 10 - Week 3

The reopening of the North Cascades is currently scheduled for 1 p.m. next Tuesday, April 16, barring unexpected weather or equipment issues.
By Wednesday afternoon, the east and west side crews were only about a half mile apart. The west side crew had a path cleared to MP 155. The east side crew had the highway cleared full width to Rainy Pass (MP 157.5) and a path cut down to MP 155.6 where a rock slide halted work. The two crews expect to meet up with each other later today-Thusday. It never got warmer than 35 degrees on Wednesday and rained causing more avalanche chutes to dump snow across the highway and it's going to stay there until Monday when the avalanche crew returns. More snow and wind is forecast for Thursday, but dry and cold is the prediction for Friday. 

Day 12 - April 11 - Week 3

The reopening of the North Cascades is currently scheduled for 1 p.m. next Tuesday, April 16, barring unexpected weather or equipment issues.

The two crews met Thursday morning and spent the rest of the day widening about four miles from Swamp Creek to Rainy Pass shoulder to shoulder, picking up some more rocks and cutting up some more trees. There's 6-10" of snow forecast tonight (Friday) and a little more on Saturday. That coupled with the snow piled up under Liberty Bell 2 and 3 should keep the crews (along with the avalanche crew) on Monday, plenty busy clearing pavement to get ready for Tuesday's opening.

Day 14 - April 16 - Week 4

The gates swung open at 1 p.m. this afternoon. The pavement was bare and wet where it wasn't dry. It was chilly, but above freezing. This is 3 1/2 weeks earlier than last year's opening on May 10 even though the clearing only started one day earlier on March 25.