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North Cascades Highway 2017 Progress

week 1 4/10-14

For more frequent updates follow:
The WSDOT Facebook page, Twitter and the 2017 FlickR reopening collection.

Work began from the west side on April 3 and from the east side on April 10.

Week 1 –April 13, 2017:

The progress made on the west side has cleared the first 14 miles above the Diablo Gate to milepost 148, the Granite Creek Bridge, which is also the boundary between the WSDOT's Northwest and North Central Regions.
From the east, crews cleared 12 miles from the Early Winters Information Center to the beginning of the Cutthroat Ridge avalanche zone at milepost 166.
Weather was cold and wet. A rockslide on the westside, near Newhalem, blocked the highway and pulled the crew off the reopening effort for several days. On the eastside, the crew from Eastern Region's Sherman pass brought their brand new Kodiak snow blower over to test it and train. MUCH appreciated!

Week 2 - April 20, 2017

Good progress was made despite snowy/rainy weather and mud, rocks and debris that closed SR 20 on both sides of the North Cascades Winter Closure gates.
This week eastside crews were working below Cutthroat Ridge, cutting down 25 foot debris piles at CR 6, 7, 8 most of the week and are now to CR 10.
Two caterpillars joined the effort to do the cutting as a Kodiak can only swallow snow to about 8-10 feet high.
On the westside progress: The front end loader mounted blower made it to milepost 151 just west of Easy Pass trailhead.(about 6 miles below Rainy Pass ) Snow depth there is 29 inches.
Weather on both sides has been cool and snowy. Forecast for upcoming week is more of the same.

Week three - 4/24-28

The west side crew cleared to within 2 ½ miles of Rainy Pass and the eastside crew is about the same distance from Washington Pass. The difference is on the west side the snow is three feet deep. On the east side, snow is 7 feet deep and the Liberty Bell avalanche zone is still ahead where there’s 45 to 55 feet of heavy wet snow on the roadway.
On the westside the work is progressing well with a plow truck and the loader-mounted blower. On the eastside, the two big caterpillars have begun cutting down the huge piles of snow in the Liberty Bell avalanche zone.
Weather conditions on Thursday were pretty common for all of week three. At midday it was 38 degrees, clouds and sun with snow flurries where the crews were working at about 4500 feet elevation.
There's 9-1/2' of snow at the top of Washington Pass. Many avalanche chutes still have snow in them that hasn't come down yet.

Week four - 5/1-5

The west side crew started Monday about 1-1/2 miles from Rainy Pass. The crew was plowing and snow blowing through 40” of snow. By Tuesday, through 5-1/2 feet of snow, they made it to Rainy and by Wednesday had it cleared shoulder to shoulder. They’re now pushing further east.
On the east side, Monday, the highway was cleared to Liberty Bell Mtn. Under the watchful eyes of avalanche team spotters, crews got to work on the 45’-55’ of snow at the foot of the three biggest chutes, LB 1, 2 & 3. It was almost crowded with a D-6 and a D-8 caterpillar, a backhoe, an excavator, a snow blower and a snow cat.
By the end of the work week, the crew had cleared and widened through LB 1,2 & 3 and on to Washington Pass. They're now pushing west toward Blue Lake.
Warmer temps brought down more natural slides and next week could see some avalanche control shots to bring down more. We can't open with unstable snow in those chutes even if the pavement below has been cleared.

Week five+ - 5/8-12 & 15-16

What turned out to be the final week of clearing was a bit of a surprise to all.  On Wednesday the decision was made to work Friday and Saturday by the east side crew to get through the last 3 miles separating the two crews to address some drainage and pavement damage issues and still meet their goal of opening before Memorial Day weekend.
Warm heavy rain turned the 6 - 1/2 feet of snow on the pavement to "butter" and the two crews met and had the pavement cleared guardrail to guardrail by 10 a.m. Thursday.  They also determined that the weekend forecast wouldn't produce any conditions they couldn't address on Monday so the reopening date was set for 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 16.
Monday's work was successful and while a dusting of snow and just above freezing temperatures greeted travelers waiting in line, the gates opened at 11 a.m. as planned. 
The crew did some avalanche control Monday, but the colder temperatures had stabilized the few chutes that still had snow in them so it was safe to open.  As warm temperatures return Wednesday, they'll close the highway for an hour or so for avalanche control work if necessary.