COLES CORNER – For the second time in as many days, traffic over Stevens Pass was halted after a tree fell on a vehicle on U.S. Highway 2.
The highway will remain closed until it’s safe for drivers, the state Department of Transportation late Sunday afternoon.
At this time, it’s not clear when it will be open, officials said, noting more snow is expected.
“This series of storms has been remarkable,” Transportation’s North-Central Regional Administrator Dan Sarles said. “The snow is unusually heavy and wet, snapping and uprooting trees at a rate we haven’t seen in decades.”
Maintenance crews on State Route 542 (Mount Baker Highway) and on state Highway 20 east of Sherman Pass reported the same conditions.
U.S. Highway 2 traffic is being detoured to Interstate 90 and the U.S. Highway 97 between the east-west routes.
“We know this is a busy highway, especially right before the holiday,” Sarles said. “The good news is that we have an alternate route in Snoqualmie Pass.”
The closure follows two incidents where trees fell on moving cars.
On Saturday, a tree fell on the 2005 Audi A6 being driven by Binay Kumar Pathak, 37, of Seattle, about 22 miles west of Leavenworth, the Washington State Patrol reported.
The tree fell on his westbound vehicle at about 5:49 p.m., a day after another tree fell on a car killing two people.
Pathak and his passengers Anauradhika Aunradhika, 30; Charanjot Ratton, 13; Pootnam Ratton, 25; and Simran Rattan, 16; all of Seattle, sustained injuries and were transported by ambulance to Cascade Hospital in Leavenworth, the State Patrol reported.
All were wearing seat belts, and neither alcohol nor drugs are considered a factor in the incident, the State Patrol reported.
Pathak’s vehicle was destroyed and removed from the crash scene Thompson Towing.
The state Department of Transportation closed the highway overnight to remove the debris and check other snow-laden trees that had the potential to fall across U.S. Highway 2.
At 6:25 p.m. Saturday, Transportation officials closed a 35-mile stretch of the highway from the west end of Leavenworth to Stevens Pass.
Traffic was detoured through Snoqualmie and Blewett passes overnight.
The highway remains closed, officials said.
“Conditions were evaluated this morning and it was determined that there were too many snow-laden, leaning trees to allow a safe opening,” a statement issued Sunday by the state Department of Transportation said. “Work to reduce the potential tree-fall and continued monitoring of weather and road conditions are ongoing.
According to the National Weather Service, more than 4 inches of snow is expected to fall in the pass today.
Stevens isn’t the only pass affected by falling trees.
Transportation officials also closed state Highway 20 about 11 miles west of Kettle Falls due to trees falling across the highway near Sherman Pass.
The highway close closed at shortly after midnight early Saturday morning.
In the Friday incident, Bothell residents Timothy Desmond Owen, 58, and Cheryl Janine Reed, 56, were pronounced dead at the scene at 1:30 p.m., approximately 21 miles west of Leavenworth on U.S. Highway 2.
Owen’s passengers were taken to Central Washington Hospital for treatment of their injuries.
The highway was closed about three hours for that incident, the State Patrol reported.