US 2 and other Cascade passes closed, delaying return travel

EVERETT – Three major mountain passes connecting eastern and western Washington remained closed on Friday due to heavy snowfall and avalanche danger.

They are unlikely to reopen until at least Sunday.

The weather this week prompted Governor Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency. State and local agencies are coordinating to assess the damage and begin repairs, according to a press release. And the Washington State Military Department activated the State Emergency Operations Center.

Meanwhile, some residents of Snohomish County are stranded on the east side of the Cascades.

Laura Page, owner of Looking Glass Coffee in Snohomish, rented an Airbnb in Leavenworth for a four-day work retreat with nine employees. The trip takes longer than expected.

“We were supposed to leave Thursday and go home, but that’s when the passes were closed,” Page said. “We’re just stuck for a few more days. We make the most of it.

For Looking Glass supervisor Abbi Stempak, the closure of the multi-day pass is unprecedented.

“I have never seen all the passes closed at the same time, especially for more than a day,” she said.

Stempak said it would miss a flight to Hawaii on Saturday, but was able to book a new one in a few weeks.

While waiting to get home, Page said, she and her colleagues were killing time playing board games and taking advantage of over a yard of snow that fell on Leavenworth on Thursday.

Higher up, the rain followed the record snowfall, creating a serious avalanche risk for drivers and crews working to clear the roads.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Loebsack said conditions at Stevens Pass were too dangerous on Friday for crews to begin avalanche control work along US 2. As part of In this work, teams use explosives to trigger controlled avalanches, thereby reducing risks to travelers.

“The rain creates additional instability (on mountain slopes) because it weighs everything down,” Loebsack said. “Since it is still raining actively, we are very careful about where we are going.”

On Friday evening, the Northwest Avalanche Center called the avalanche risk “considerable” on both sides of Stevens Pass.

The delays in reopening the passes are more due to unsafe conditions than to personnel, Loebsack said. However, state road workers in the region had smaller shifts than usual due to COVID-19 quarantines and workers who quit their jobs in response to Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate. More than 400 Department of Transportation employees have resigned or been fired because of the tenure, The Seattle Times reported in October.

Stevens Pass closed early Thursday, shortly after the two other major east-west winter roads closed: Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 and White Pass on Route 12.

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea declared a disaster in the town on Friday. The snowfall has raised concerns across the city for the safety and stability of structures, the city said this week.

The owners of Looking Glass Coffee and their employees are stranded at this Airbnb in Leavenworth, on the east side of Stevens Pass. (Abbi Stempak)

City spokeswoman Christie Voos said she spoke to longtime Leavenworth residents who say they have never seen such intense snow in the area.

“None of them have ever seen snow like this,” Voos said. “Partly because it was so at the same time. Partly because it was so light and fluffy, so the plowing was difficult. It’s a lot for us to manage.

The weather is expected to dry out throughout the weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Maddie Kristell said.

This winter has been more extreme than she has seen in the past, Kristell said.

“We can certainly say that in terms of impact, the weather this season has been more impactful on passes and rivers,” she said.

Kristell urged drivers to use caution and never drive on flooded roads.

In Everett, high temperatures in the mid-1940s and low temperatures in the mid-1930s were forecast for Saturday and Sunday. A 40% chance of rain was forecast for Saturday.

Then, a small change of pace in the forecast for Sunday: Clear skies and sun.

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; [email protected] Twitter: @jacq_allison.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; [email protected]; Twitter: @reporterellen.


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