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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WSDOT Reports on Opening of Hwy 20

I drove to the west side gate at the Ross Lake trailhead on Saturday and there was absolutely no snow. Ditto at the top of Thunder Knob (stay tuned for some photos). It got me to wondering if they might open the highway a little earlier than usual this year. Well...

This just in by email from WSDOT:
Hi all,

This is a “spring fever” e mail.  Yes, this “El Nino” winter has been pretty mild (especially compared to last winter’s January highway washouts when we had 200 state routes closed at one time!) 

I’ve gotten a couple of e mails asking if the North Cascades might open early.  If I were a betting man, I’d say yes. I could see it opening earlier than the last 40 year average, but probably not anything approaching ‘05’s March 10 opening. (The chart shows what happened that year – we were open 16 days and got clobbered with snow that closed the highway for another 10 days.)

2009 04-24
2008 05-01
2007 04-26
2006 05-01
2005 03-10 then 03-26 to 04-04 (temp. closure)
2004 04-08
2003 04-14
2002 05-07
2001 03-22
2000 03-30

See the Closure History web page.

(And, anticipating some of your “annual suggestion” e mails – WSDOT cannot legally set up a betting pool for an opening date…as much fun as it might sound!)

So, here’s the plan:

The Avalanche crew tentatively plans to go up the last week in February to do the reopening assessment. (That’s about their normal timing.)  

While we're always being urged to open the highway as soon as possible (preferably by the opening weekend of fishing season), I've also gotten e-mail from some recreation providers who ask we not open early (before Easter) because when we do, it costs them business! (I guess we’ll never please everyone!). 

Another note - I checked that last "El Nino" year for Stevens Pass and found we had almost no avalanche control and low snow accumulations until March when we got hammered with almost 200" of snow. (By way of comparison - there's about 79 inches on the ground today and the total accumulation for this season, so far, is only 225 inches.)  (Again, by way of comparison, last year’s season total was about average = 434”).

Expect another one of these updates when they do the assessment in about 3 weeks.

Happy Winter!

Jeff Adamson  509.667.2815 (24 hr.)

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