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The effort to reopen the North Cascades Highway will begin Monday, March 31. Despite the heavy late season snowfall, those responsible for the annual reopening effort are optimistic that State Route 20 could be open by early May.
“Last year it took us less than 4 weeks to clear the highway but this year there’s twice as much snow at the summit”, said Avalanche Control Supervisor Mike Stanford. “It’s likely to take closer to the usual six weeks to reopen this year.”
On Tuesday, Washington State Department of Transportation avalanche-control specialists and maintenance technicians toured the North Cascades Highway from the Early Winters information center near Mazama to Washington Pass via snow cat. Along the way they stopped to measure snow depths at two dozen sites. Snow at the summit of Washington Pass measured almost 10 feet, which is double the depth of last year. Snow on the highway below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes averaged 35 feet deep. Crews observed conditions similar to those they encountered in 2011 when it took approximately six weeks to clear and reopen the highway.
WSDOT closed the highway for the winter last on Dec. 3, 2013. The highway typically reopens between mid-April and early May.