Crews trekked up the snow-covered North Cascades Highway on Thursday, March 17, 2011, and found, well, lots of snow.
Actually, there’s so much snow that we’re expecting the latest reopening of the highway in the last 20 years. We probably won’t be able to start clearing the pass until early to mid-April.
In the Cutthroat Ridge avalanche zones we found snow 5 to 20 feet deep, which is fairly normal.
But in the Liberty Bell avalanche zone we found much, much deeper snow – as deep as 60 feet. Normally, the snow is anywhere from 10 to 50 feet deep.
And at the summit, Washington Pass, we found snow 10 feet deep, which is also deeper than normal. This isn’t an avalanche zone.
There is still snow in the avalanche chutes that will hopefully come down naturally over the next several weeks. If it doesn’t, we may have to blast it out before we can start clearing the highway.
The real kicker is that the forecast is calling for continued heavy snowfall through the last week in March. Given this forecast, we have to keep our snow blowers and avalanche resources focused on Stevens Pass.
We will likely not start the North Cascades reopening effort until early to mid April. If we started too early and the storms materialized, we would find ourselves having to rework the North Cascades.