Epic Snowfall Closes I-90, Seattle's Link To Outside World | KUOW News and Information

Epic Snowfall Closes I-90, Seattle's Link To Outside World

Dec 24, 2015

Update, 10 a.m., Dec. 26, 2015: The Washington state Department of Transportation tweeted early Christmas Day that Interstate 90 westbound had reopened. The eastbound lanes had reopened a few hours earlier.

Original post, Dec. 24, 2015: The main highway that connects Seattle to the rest of the U.S. is closed.

More snow dumped on Interstate 90 around Snoqualmie Pass on Thursday, causing collisions and spin-outs. The Washington State Department of Transportation shut down an 80-mile stretch of the highway between milepost 34 in North Bend to milepost 106 in Ellensburg.

State officials said they would evaluate conditions later Thursday to determine when the pass could reopen.

Snoqualmie Pass usually gets 300 to 400 inches of snow in a season, WSDOT shared on a blog it set up for the I-90 closure. This week, it got more than a quarter of that.

Thursday’s forecast predicts another foot of snow during the day and a foot of snow in the evening.

Trees are across the road and there is high avalanche danger, according to state crews.

Get updates from WSDOT on Twitter and the I-90 closure blog

The pass, the major east-west route over the Cascade Range, is about 54 miles east of Seattle.

Fallen trees across power lines in the Snoqualmie Pass area on Thursday.
Credit Puget Sound Energy

State transportation crews worked through the night on avalanche control work.

“They’re looking at depth and new snow,” Mike Allende of WSDOT said. “We have artillery that we shoot into the mountain to see how much snow comes down.”

They also sometimes use explosives placed by hand or “cable-pulley bomb trams,” according to the WSDOT blog.

Stevens Pass has reopened following avalanche control work. 

White Pass on U.S. 12 is open but chains are required for all vehicles except those that have all-wheel drive.

On Wednesday, a power outage affected ski lifts at Snoqualmie Pass. But Guy Lawrence, marketing director for the Summit at Snoqualmie ski resort was in good spirits Wednesday.

“Snow continues to fall, and we are almost hitting records at this point. So it’s looking very bright for this season,” Lawrence said.

Drivers attempting the crossing should stay plugged in, Allende said.

“The conditions are changing a lot up there. Have chains ready. Blankets, food, extra warm clothes,” he said. The seasoned KUOW web staff adds to this list: sleeping bags and a snow shovel if you have one. Also, a warm travel companion. 

Credit Washington State Department of Transportation