Monday, May 3, 2010

North Cascades Highway - getting snow in May!

By guest blogger Jeff Adamson

Hi all,
You probably know the North Cascades is closed.  It snowed all night and when Liberty Bell #3 filled and dumped across the road, the plow truck driver who had been working all night was told to get out of there, and close the gate on his way.  The forecast says we've got another foot or more coming between now and tomorrow, so it's not safe for our crews to be working under unstable avalanche chutes anymore than it's safe for you to be driving under them.  I'm rooting around through the record books and haven't yet found an avalanche closure this late - but I'll keep looking.  I just got off the phone with Mike Stanford, our Avalanche Control Chief.  He will be up there tomorrow doing the assessment of avalanche danger.  He's taking the howitzer along so if some avalanche control blasting can get us open again quickly, he'll be able to do it.  It really depends on what happens to the Cutthroat Ridge chutes - if they're full and unstable - we might just have to wait a day or two for the temperature increase that's coming later in the week to cause them to empty. (Due to the topography, you can't shoot Cutthroat starting zones from the highway with the 105mm.) 
By the way - depending on how much of the forecast' 6 to 10 inches of snow hits Stevens - he may have to deal with some avalanche issues before he leaves his office at Berne Camp (that's our maintenance facility 8 miles east of Stevens Summit.)
Sorry, no pictures (no one better be up there to take any!)  We're manning the gates just in case any back country recreationist we weren't able to contact show up wanting to go home.
Here's what the Highway Alert that went out this morning:
WSDOT Alert
DATE/TIME: May 3, 2010, 9:30 a.m.
DESCRIPTION: SR 20, the North Cascades Pass, is closed from milepost 134 to milepost 170.
LOCATION: SR 20 at milepost 170 North Cascades Pass
START: May 3, 2010, 9:30 a.m.
Est. END: Unknown
OTHER: Due to avalanche danger, high winds, and incoming snow, the North Cascades Pass is closed until further notice.
CONTACT: NCTMC (509) 667-2802

Here's the forecast:
Snow over Washington and Rainy passes will continue through the day today with heavy snow showers and squalls expected during the midday and afternoon hours.  There is the potential for significant snow accumulations over both Washington and Rainy passes (upwards of 12”+), with slush potential as low down the hill as Diablo on Mon afternoon and evening.  Most of the snow concerns remain over the passes, with little cold-moisture making it much further E than Early Winters.  Snow levels may drop as low as 1,500 feet Monday night into Tuesday morning with more snow expected, mainly West of the passes.

Happy May!

(This was sent out via the North Cascades email distribution list this morning. Sign up to get this and much more information sent directly to your inbox. )