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Highway on track for mid-May opening

Snow threatens, avalanches remain a possibility

— At the end of the first week clearing snow from the North Cascades Highway and more snow forecast for this weekend, the state is still on track to reopen the road in mid-May.

“A productive day, despite a little afternoon snowfall,” Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Adamson wrote in a report Friday.

Saturday carried a 50 percent chance of snow or rain, with less than half an inch of accumulation, according to the National Weather Service. Blue skies and sunshine are predicted for Monday and Tuesday, and rain might move into the area later in the week.

Starting Monday, crews on the east side of the highway began work at Early Winter’s Information Center and managed to clear eight miles’ worth of roadway by Friday.

An avalanche technician, Harlan Sheppard, was brought in to keep an eye on things, Adamson said.

On the west side, 14 miles were cleared from Diablo Gate to Granite Creek, where snow measured more than four feet deep, he said. The crew also took care of a snow slide at Ruby Ridge.

When the crews began, snow at Washington Pass measured 10 feet – twice as much as last year, according to the state – and below the Liberty Bell avalanche chute, it was 35 feet.

Adamson suggested drivers check the Northwest Avalanche Center website, www.nwac.us, before traveling into the area.

The highway was closed Dec. 3, 2013. Last year, the highway reopened April 16, only about three weeks after crews began clearing out the snow.

In the highway’s history since it first opened in 1972, it has been closed every winter but one, 1976-77.

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