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Highway clearing continues

Opening date still not pinned down for North Cascades

— Three weeks into the process of clearing the North Cascades Highway, state crews continue to clear avalanche chutes along the state’s northernmost route through the Cascade Mountains.

As of Friday, crews working from the east and west ends of the highway were near to meeting.

“They’re pushing like crazy,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Adamson said.

No firm opening date has been set, but it should come sometime in the next few weeks.

A bulldozer from the east side made a single top cut through the snow to milepost 157 within Chelan County and west of Rainy Pass on Thursday. The west side crew had cleared both lanes of the highway to milepost 157 on Wednesday.

The west side crew, which has been pulling double duty on the cleanup from the Oso mudslide, did not work Thursday on the highway.

Temperatures were in the mid-50s, with sunny skies, Adamson said.

A helicopter was used last week on avalanche control, with snow released from 10 avalanche chutes.

The warmth hasn’t penetrated very deeply into the highest-elevation chutes so while snow slid from all five Liberty Bell Mountain chutes, they’re not empty, he said.

Explosive charges dropped in the Cutthroat zone brought down snow from five of the Cutthroat chutes.

Cleanup requires avalanche crew spotters and they’re going to be out of the area for part of next week, so the decision was made to work Friday.

From the east side, some widening was accomplished to Bridge Creek. Work done by the bulldozer to milepost 157 means snow in the cut is about six feet deep and the proper height for a snow blower to work on next week.

Adamson cautioned bicyclists not to try going through the cut “because when the snow blower finds you Monday, it won’t be pretty.”

Last week, natural avalanches dumped snow on the highway in the Cutthroat Ridge and Liberty Bell areas.

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