Friday, January 7, 2022

Extreme weather affecting highways across the state

Update: Thursday, Jan. 13 - 3:00 p.m.

And then there were none.

White Pass has reopened, meaning all major east-west pass routes (US 12 White Pass, US 2 Stevens Pass, US 97 Blewett Pass and I-90 Snoqualmie Pass) are once again open for cross-state travel following record-level snowfall on Jan. 4 and 5. WSDOT crews from across the state have worked around the clock to reopen the passes, shifting staff and equipment as we do every year for major storms. Please help our crews keep the roadways open by taking it slow and being prepared for winter driving conditions – just one crash or spinout could cause a pass to close again.

Update: Thursday, Jan. 13 - 1:05 p.m.

White Pass

A specialized contractor has made great progress removing a massive boulder sitting 125 feet above the roadway and we will reopen White Pass at 3 p.m. today, Thursday, Jan. 13.  The contractor was able to dislodge and remove the massive boulder sitting about the highway this morning and now crews must clean up the area and ensure the stope is stable enough to reopen the roadway to traffic.  The rock scaling contractors strategically placed two air bags underneath the 12 ft by 8 ft by 6 ft boulder and inflated them, causing the boulder to tumble down the slope and break apart as it fell. 

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass and US 2 Tumwater Canyon reopened to traffic shortly at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, after crews worked Wednesday and early Thursday to clear the roadway and remove dangerous trees close to the roadway. Travelers should expect winter driving conditions and it is critical that all travelers take it slow and be prepared and stay updated on traction requirements. One crash or spinout could be all it takes to close the pass again.

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes

The passes are open and crews continue to work to clear snow and ice from additional traffic lanes, exit ramps, shoulders and rest areas. On Snoqualmie Pass there are still some narrow locations with limited areas to stop and we ask travelers to use caution and take it slow to avoid any crashes or spinouts that could force the pass to close again. It could take just one driver not prepared for snow or ice to close the entire pass for travelers.

Update: Thursday, Jan. 13 - 10:36 a.m.

Stevens Pass

Stevens Pass and US 2 Tumwater Canyon have reopened to traffic! Crews worked Wednesday and overnight clearing the road and removed dangerous trees near the roadway Thursday morning to get the pass and highway reopened to travelers and it’s critical that all travelers take it slow and be prepared for winter driving conditions. We don’t want a spin out or crash to cause the pass to close again. Traction tires are advised on the roadway.

White Pass

Work continues on White Pass to remove a large boulder above the roadway and we expect to have an update on progress this afternoon. White Pass reopened Monday, Jan. 10, but then had to close again when a rockslide exposed the very large bolder, roughly the size of a three-quarter ton pickup, about 125 feet above the roadway. A specialized contractor is on site removing the boulder.

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes

The passes are open and crews continue to work to clear snow and ice from additional traffic lanes, exit ramps, shoulders and rest areas. On Snoqualmie Pass there are still some narrow locations with limited areas to stop and we once again ask travelers to use caution and take it slow to avoid any crashes or spinouts that could force the pass to close again. It could take just one driver not prepared for snow or ice to close the entire pass for travelers.


Update: Wednesday, Jan. 12 - 4:46 p.m.

Heavy rain Tuesday on US 2 Stevens Pass created further avalanche danger today on the west side of the pass and created some new slides on US 2 Tumwater Canyon, creating safety risks that delayed some work. However, Stevens Pass and Tumwater Canyon will reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday morning, Jan. 13. On White Pass, a specialist contractor must remove a large boulder and other slides need to stabilize before the pass can reopen. White Pass will remain closed at least until Thursday and we expect to have an update Thursday afternoon.

Stevens Pass

Tuesday’s rain increased avalanche danger to unsafe levels, meaning crews had to be pulled out of the area for their own safety. Even if the roadway had been cleared Tuesday, it wouldn’t have been safe to have the pass open for traffic given the avalanche danger. Avalanche control work was done Wednesday morning which resolved the immediate avalanche risk but also created more snow and large debris that crews spent Wednesday clearing off the roadway. There are also areas with 4-inch-thick ice on the road that had to be removed.

Meanwhile, east of the summit in US 2 Tumwater Canyon, some more, smaller snow slides came down with Tuesday’s rain, which crews had to clear before the road could reopen. There have been more than 200 snow slides in Tumwater Canyon since the initial storm.

Crews will reopen Stevens Pass and Tumwater Canyon will at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

White Pass

White Pass reopened Monday afternoon but closed later that evening due to rockslide west of the summit that left a large boulder exposed about 125 feet above the highway and at risk of falling with additional rain, snow or temperature changes. Additional rockslides east of the summit on Tuesday caused closure of the pass to extend further east. We were able to remove the slides east of the summit. WB traffic is allowed up to the summit at MP 151, but won't be able to go past that point.

A specialized crew began working on the large boulder today, Wednesday, but it will take time to safely remove. For context, the massive boulder measures about 12 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet, which is roughly equivalent to a three-quarter ton pickup and likely would take up most of a two-car garage interior. It may require the rock to be broken into pieces once it’s brought down from the hillside to be hauled away.

White Pass will remain closed at least until Thursday.

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes

Crews continue to work to clear snow and ice from traffic lanes, exit ramps, shoulders and rest areas. On Snoqualmie Pass there are still some narrow locations with limited areas to stop and we once again ask travelers to use caution and take it slow to avoid any crashes or spinouts that could force the pass to close again. It could take just one driver not prepared for snow or ice to close the entire pass for travelers.

Update: Tuesday, Jan. 11 - 2:55 p.m.

Heavy rain Tuesday on US 2 Stevens Pass has created further avalanche danger on the west side of the pass but should also help stabilize the snowpack in advance of more avalanche control work, and we still hope to have Stevens Pass and Tumwater Canyon open on Wednesday. White Pass re-closed Monday evening due to a rockslide. A large boulder presents a safety issue and until it can be removed, the west side of White Pass must stay closed.

Stevens Pass

About 3½ inches of rain is expected to fall on the west side of Stevens Tuesday into Wednesday. Heavy rain creates snow instability, so for safety reasons, our crews moved back to work on the east side of the pass where conditions are better. They were however able to complete about 80 percent of needed snow slide clearing on the west side before conditions changed. If conditions stabilize, our avalanche control team will do more work Wednesday morning before maintenance crews can safely start work to clear snow and debris off the road. The timing for re-opening the pass depends on how much debris is in the snow slides. When slides are full of trees and rocks, they require additional equipment to clear.

Meanwhile, east of the summit, crews are making great progress clearing US 2 Tumwater Canyon. We still saw a few small snow slides, but crews have been working to clear them and prepare the road for reopening. There have been more than 200 snow slides in Tumwater Canyon since the initial storm.

White Pass

Crews were able to reopen US 12 White Pass at 3 p.m. Monday. However, a rockslide west of the summit at milepost 144 left a large boulder exposed about 125 feet above the highway. The highway closed Monday just before 5:30 p.m. due to safety concerns. Geotechnical engineers assessed the situation on Tuesday morning and determined that the boulder – measuring about 12 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet – could dislodge due to additional snowfall, rain and a mix of freezing and thawing temperatures. We need to bring in a crew who specializes in rock removal to safely remove the boulder. Until then, the west side of White Pass will remain closed. Drivers can still access the summit from the east side. There is no estimate for when the work will be completed.

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes

Crews continue to work to clear snow and ice from traffic lanes, exit ramps, shoulders and rest areas. On Snoqualmie Pass there are still some narrow locations with limited areas to stop.

Update: Monday, Jan. 10 - 1:15 p.m.

Two down, two more to go. With both I-90 Snoqualmie Pass and US 97 Blewett Pass having reopened on Sunday evening, we are down to two mountain passes still closed after last week’s major snowstorm. But soon that will be down to just one.

US 12 White Pass is expected to reopen at 3 p.m. today, Monday.

Crews are doing final work to clear snow and debris to allow traffic to move safely through the southernmost cross-state mountain pass in our state. Meanwhile, US 2 Stevens Pass still has a significant amount of work to be done and will likely remain closed until at least Wednesday.

Thanks to avalanche danger subsiding over the weekend, crews have been able to make great progress reopening White Pass. As of Monday morning, workers were using snow blowers to clear more snow in order to widen the roadway for traffic. They were also clearing catch basins to allow for drainage and clearing trees and rocks that came down in snow slides. The pass, which closed due to snow slide danger and hazardous conditions at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan.5, will reopen to traffic at 3 p.m.

Stevens Pass/US 2 Tumwater Canyon

Crews remain hard at work clearing numerous snow slides as well as removing snow, debris and 4-inch-thick ice from the roadway. The pass and road will remain closed at least until Wednesday.

Crews are seeing some of the largest snow slides on the pass in recent memory. In addition, the snow slides are full of debris such as trees and rocks, which requires additional equipment beyond just snow blowers to help clear. In Tumwater Canyon more avalanche control work was done Monday morning and crews are keeping a close eye to see if more may be needed as they clear more than 200 snow slides. As we do every winter during large storms, crews have been brought in from other parts of the state to help get this and all the passes reopened.

Snoqualmie and Blewett passes

Both passes reopened at 5 p.m. Sunday and we’ve seen good cooperation from drivers on taking it slow and driving for conditions. While open, the passes are not the standard winter travel level yet and we need travelers’ help in keeping the passes open by following speed limits and staying alert to avoid any crashes or spin outs that could force a pass to close again. Travelers should also be prepared to drive the entire passes without stopping as ramps, intersections and local city accesses remain difficult. There also are limited restroom facilities.

Update: Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022- 4:00 p.m.

Snoqualmie & Blewett passes will reopen at 5 p.m. today with a 45 mph speed limit & traction tires advised. Priority is to get freight traffic moving; recreational/general traffic should continue to delay travel.

Update: Sunday, January 9, 2022- 12:30 p.m.

Work continues on reopening the passes but crews continue to deal with massive amounts of snow & ice. Snoqualmie & Blewett will open later today but we don't have an ETA. Please don't line up until we provide the next update early this evening. When we reopen it will be to get freight moving - any other trips should continue to be delayed as more work remains to make roads ready for general traffic. This is vital to understand: the opening is to get freight moving, not for general travel.

Crews have cleared 2 narrow lanes across most of I-90 and reduced speed limits will be in place once it reopens. Shoulders, exit ramps & chain up areas are mostly impassable & access to rest room facilities will be limited.

Heavy snow is also affecting multiple local roads in communities around the pass. Because of those factors, all drivers need to be prepared to cross the pass without stopping. There will be no safe areas in order to stop until you cross the pass.

White Pass is on track to reopen late Monday afternoon as crews continue to clear very deep snow. Stevens Pass & nearby Tumwater Canyon will likely not reopen before Wednesday. Ice is 4 inches thick on Stevens with snow slides 60-70 ft high. We will provide another update in early evening for Snoqualmie and Blewett passes. We continue to appreciate everyone’s patience as our crews work to safely get roads reopened.

Update: Sunday, January 9, 2022- 10:45 a.m.

  • I-5 through Chehalis reopened on Friday, still hearing some rumors that it is closed
  • US 12 near Thurston County line remains closed
  • SR 507 near Bucoda remains closed
  • Pothole repair on NB I-5 through the Dupont area has been finished.
  • Stevens, White, Blewett and Snoqualmie remain closed (see below for details about those closures)

Find the latest updates on our real-time travel map or follow the WSDOT Twitter account or the WSDOT Facebook account for more insight.

Update: Saturday, January 8, 2022- 2:40 p.m.

Saturday's update: Good progress continues to be made by our crews working to reopen Snoqualmie ), Stevens, White and Blewett passes. There’s still a lot of work to go but Snoqualmie and Blewett passes will reopen sometime Sunday, while it will take longer to get Stevens and White passes reopened.

  • Snoqualmie: Using plows, blowers and graders, we continue to clear snow and make sure hillsides are stable from earlier avalanche concerns. Crews are also clearing catch basins to allow for drainage from melting snow and rain. One of our tow plows - Plowie McPlow Plow - was moved from Spokane to Snoqualmie Pass to assist with the work. They are on track to reopen on Sunday. We will have a better sense for time late Sunday morning.
  • Blewett: Avalanche control was successful and crews continue to use a blower and plows to clear the highway. Davenport-based crews sent a blower to help with this work. We are optimistic that Blewett will open on Sunday and will have a better sense for timing late Sunday morning.
  • Stevens: Several snow slides on Stevens Pass produced areas of snow that stand 30-35 feet tall. We’ve been able to open one lane to allow crews further access for avalanche control and clearing work. Snow has built up in rare locations on the mountain and we may do avalanche control from a helicopter to knock those hazards down Monday.
  • While not Stevens Pass, US 2 Tumwater Canyon east of the pass affects our ability to open Stevens. There’s been 208 snow slides in Tumwater Canyon. That’s about 25 slides per mile. We continue to monitor conditions and work where it is safe to do so to get this stretch of highway open. At this time, it is unlikely Stevens Pass or Tumwater Canyon will reopen before Tuesday.
  • White: While there is no remaining avalanche concern on White Pass, there is still a substantial amount of snow and debris, including trees, rocks, etc., to remove. Some blower cuts are more than 16 feet deep. Crews have brought in an excavator to go along with the plows and blowers to clear the pass but it is unlikely White Pass will open before Monday.

We know this has been a long, challenging situation and we appreciate everyone's patience. Our crews are working as fast and hard as they safely can to get things open, and we'll have another update Sunday morning.

Image showing Snoqualmie snowfall totals

Update: Friday, January 7, 2022- 6:45 p.m.

  • SR 109 at milepost 2 near Hoquiam has reopened
  • SR 108 at milepost 5 near McCleary has reopened
  • SR 507 in Bucoda will remain closed overnight as water levels haven't receded enough for crews to safely reopen.

Find the latest updates on our real-time travel map or follow the WSDOT Twitter account or the WSDOT Facebook account for more insight.

Mountain Pass update

Friday PM update : Crews are working hard & progress is being made, but there is still a lot of work to go and the passes are unlikely to open before Sunday. After working in safer locations earlier, we were able to make it into the pass areas today.

  • Snoqualmie: Overnight 38 natural avalanches came down onto the highway on the west side the pass. Our avalanche team did a substantial amount of avalanche control in 2 main areas on the west side. Maintenance crews are making progress removing snow with plows, blowers & graders & removing snow from overhead signs. There are trees & other debris that must be removed & catch basins need to be cleared for drainage and melting snow.
  • Stevens: Our avalanche team continued to prepare avalanche control devices & assess conditions as crews work to cut a single lane opening over the summit through very deep snow. High winds and an additional 4-8 inches of snow is in the forecast tonight which we hope may drop the snow built up in the avalanche chutes & stabilize conditions, otherwise we are prepared to do avalanche control work.
  • White: Crews have been using a blower & loader to work through very deep snow. There is still at least another full day of snow removal that must be done as well as a substantial amount of snow slides that must be cleared.
  • Blewett: Our team was able to do some avalanche control Friday. A blower was brought in from the Spokane area to assist with opening the road.

It's been a long week and there's still a lot of work to do. Huge thanks to the crews all over the state who have been tackling this challenging stretch of weather, and a thanks to the public for your patience. We'll have another update on Saturday.

Update: Friday January 7, 2022 - 12:56 p.m.

I-5 in Lewis County has reopened. Crews closed the highway earlier today out of an abundance of caution when they saw flood water quickly rising towards the roadway and flood gauges raising. Water has stopped rising in the area of concern which allowed us to reopen the highway. We don't take the decision to close any highway lightly and base all decisions on safety of the traveling public and our crews.

The northbound I-5 off-ramp to Main Street/SR 6 in Chehalis will remain closed due to residual flood water in the area.

Update: Friday January 7, 2022 - 12:50 p.m.

SR 108 near McCleary in Mason County has reopened.

Update: Friday January 7, 2022 - 9:30 a.m.

The following locations are fully closed due to slides or flooding:

  • SR 109 at milepost 2 near Hoquiam
  • SR 108 at milepost 5 near McCleary
  • SR 507 in Bucoda

Update: Friday, January 7, 2022 - 7:45 a.m.

A 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Lewis County between Grand Mound (milepost 88) and US 12 south of Chehalis (milepost 68) is now CLOSED in both directions due to rising flood water from the Chehalis River near 13th Street in Chehalis (milepost 77). There is currently no estimated time for reopening.

There are no established alternate routes for the I-5 closure. The possible alternate routes are also under flood watch and several roads have been closed due to flooding. Drivers should delay travel until flood water recedes. Current weather forecasts show flood waters are expected to recede on Sunday. (See the location of the closure on a map.)

View the webcam near the area of the closure:

24 hour rainfall amounts as of 8 a.m. this morning:

Image of significant rainfall amounts in Western Washington

Update: Thursday, January 6, 2022 - 6:32 p.m.

Thursday: Snoqualmie, Stevens, White & Blewett passes remain closed. Because of the conditions and amount of work needed to safely re-open, they will likely remain closed until Sunday. Conditions are too dangerous for crews to be in the pass areas. Snow & debris continue to slide onto the highways. Crews are working in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins & do other work to have those areas ready when we can reopen.

More snow and possibly rain is in the forecast for the passes tonight. This will only increase the avalanche danger. If it is safe to do so, we will spend all day Friday addressing avalanche issues to create a safe work zone. Once avalanche work is done, we will spend Saturday clearing the areas, including plowing and treating roads, removing snow/ice from signs, clearing trees & debris from the road and clearing catch basins for drainage.

In lowlands, heavy rain in several areas of the state will increase flood & washout danger. Several rivers are under advisories with risks to increase as snow melt continues. There is high danger of downed trees due to saturated soil, heavy snow & rain. In Eastern WA, rain/flooding is a concern as is snow and strong winds, including in the Palouse. Blowing and drifting snow produce low visibility and challenging conditions leading to road closures and possibly power outages.

We recognize the importance of these corridors but nothing is more important than the safety of our crews and the public. We are prepared to move in once it is safe, and we appreciate your patience during this challenging situation.

January 6, 2022 - 9 a.m. Original post

As expected, extreme weather has created havoc across much of the state, leading to a number of closures including Snoqualmie, Stevens, White and Blewett passes. Conditions are so hazardous – including snow slides, trees falling and high avalanche concern – that it is too dangerous for our snowplow and avalanche control crews to be in the areas. Because of that, passes will not reopen until at least Friday and potentially not until Saturday.

Additionally, the two other east-west routes – SR 14 and Oregon’s I-84, which run through the Columbia River Gorge – are closed to freight traffic, with I-84 being closed to all vehicles.

The current conditions on the passes include very heavy snowfall, near-zero visibility and falling debris like trees onto the highway. Once the snowfall lets up, the forecast calls for heavy rain, including freezing rain, which will increase avalanche danger.

Once we determine it is safe enough for our crews, there will still be significant work to do before we can reopen. This includes:

  • Assessing avalanche risk and doing avalanche control work
  • Plowing the roads to make them passable, including clearing trees and other debris which may have come down
  • Clearing overhead signs of snow and ice
  • Accessing and clearing catch basins for drainage

As you can see, all of this work is going to take quite awhile. We recognize the importance of these corridors but nothing is more important than the safety of our crews and you, the travelling public. We are actively monitoring each closure area and are prepared to move in once it is safe, but until then we encourage anyone who has plans for cross-state travel to adjust those plans for at least the next couple days.

WSDOT tools

Please stay informed about conditions, chain requirements and closures throughout the weekend. WSDOT has several tools to assist in those efforts:

13 comments:

ericthered said...

I understand that closures to roadways and freeways can occur due to weather events and other unforeseen occurrences. While these closures are often not predictable when they are forecast in advance sufficient notice should be given of intent to close to allow people to modify their travel plans in advance. Insufficient warning was given prior to the closure of I-5 leaving many people stranded that could have avoided the area prior to the closure.
Do better next time.

Unknown said...

Plan accordingly.

AMBER JEAN said...

What if someone needs to be transported to another hospital? I live in Yakima and all the routes are closed off. What are medical personnel suppose to do?

Unknown said...

Total failure of the Governor to plan accordingly to get the passes open for commerce. In the last 50 years I have not known the passes to be closed this long.

Unknown said...

If Jay Ensley hadn't fired 450 state workers for not being vaccinated you'd have plenty of drivers to plow the passes

Unknown said...

Thanks!!! King inslee!!!

Unknown said...

With the amount of snow that fell and the snow slides that went on to the roads and still coming down don't silly

Unknown said...

Helicopter?????

Unknown said...

This is ensley's fault and only ensley's however on the other hand you voted for him so maybe you are to blame as well. Staff shortages due to vaccine mandate.

Unknown said...

I really hope I can get through monday???

Bob said...

Helicopter 🚁

Unknown said...

When is pass going to open for oversize

WSDOT said...

We aren't sure yet. We're still working to clear snow from shoulders and lanes in order to widen the lanes and make it safe for oversized loads.

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