Passes remain dangerous

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen opinion editor

As severe weather conditions force closures on the main routes to Western Washington, State Patrol officials urge travelers to drive carefully and watch their speed on potentially dangerous roads.

Stevens Pass was still closed as of 7 p.m. Thursday and Snoqualmie Pass could close again because of heavy snowfall and avalanche danger, Washington State Patrol Trooper Brian Moore said.

“Whatever you do, slow down,” Moore said. “We are seeing drivers going way too fast for these conditions and not giving enough following distance.”

People travelling this weekend should stay updated on WSDOT weather conditions by checking their website regularly, Moore said.

As of Thursday evening, there was compact snow and ice on US Route 2 through Stevens Pass, and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) weather reports show heavy rain and snow through Sunday.

WSDOT officials are preventing westbound traffic from going past milepost 99 in Leavenworth, and as of Thursday evening, WSDOT did not have a reopening time. Moore said it could be closed at least until this afternoon.

“We are anticipating some adverse weather conditions,” Moore said. “Even if the pass is open, drivers need to be cautious.”

Snoqualmie Pass reopened at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, but Moore said the potential for avalanches could force officials to reclose it this weekend. I-90 has snow and slush on the roadway, according to the WSDOT report. Average travel time across the pass from Ellensburg to North Bend is 78 minutes, and as of Thursday evening, the travel time had not increased by more than 10 minutes.

White Pass remains open, and the roadways are bare and wet, according to the report.

Moore said students travelling home should be prepared when crossing the mountains. Drivers should equip their vehicles with chains and good tires, and bring along necessities, such as water and warm clothes, in case they are forced to stop, he said.

“A lot of people get there and they are just not ready for the conditions,” Moore said.

Drivers should minimize distractions while driving and watch their speed, he said. There have been numerous crashes along the passes, and Moore said one near Chelan resulted in a fatality.