plow patrol

Machinery clears both lanes of the North Cascades Highway.

MAZAMA – The North Cascades Highway is scheduled to reopen at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 18.

The state’s northernmost route through the Cascades has been closed since Nov. 28, 2018. Clearing began March 25.

Three weeks into spring clearing, crews working from the west and east were about six miles apart as of Friday, April 12.

On the west side, Jim Johnson and his Kodiak snow blower made it to milepost 154.6, just beyond Swamp Creek or about two miles below Rainy Pass. Snow depth on the centerline is 33 inches, said a state Department of Transportation update.

Temperatures were in the low 30s.

“Snow is soft with a few inches of new powder the last few days,” said the department. “Ice bottom is minimal.”

The rest of the west side crew was down the mountain re-installing the concrete barriers that are removed each year after the pass is closed in preparation for potential avalanche activity along Ruby Mountain which is four miles above Diablo gate.

On the east side, crew size declined as the D-6 caterpillar and the avalanche crew's Snow Cat were no longer needed. The whole avalanche team got to go home to Stevens Pass when the clearing was completed under the last four huge avalanche chutes under Liberty Bell Mountain, the department said.

From there, by Thursday, both lanes had been cleared past Washington Pass to the Blue Lake area.

Work was scheduled to start Monday, April 15, with an excavator, two snow blowers, a loader, a grader and chainsaws.

“It’s not unusual to find and remove danger trees during the clearing, but the number of them - nearly daily – wasn’t expected,” said department officials. “For the crew, it’s one more way to get hurt, but Friday through Sunday when the public is allowed beyond the gates, the caution to back country visitors is check the avalanche danger before you go.”

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