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gum 11-24-2014 04:40 PM

SR 20 North Cascades Highway closes for the winter 2014/15
TWISP – The latest blast of wintery weather on State Route 20, the North Cascades Highway, will keep it closed until next spring.

The Washington State Department of Transportation temporarily closed the highway at 9:30 Sunday morning, due to heavy snowfall and a snowslide in the Liberty Bell zone east of Washington Pass. After today’s assessment by maintenance and avalanche technicians who found more slides, WSDOT determined it could not safely keep the North Cascades Highway open.

“Any more snow will pack those avalanche chutes, and we’d be putting the public and our crews at risk if we tried to keep the road open any longer,” said Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker. More snow at the high elevations is forecast through the Thanksgiving holiday period.

Slides below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes, just east of 5,477 foot Washington Pass, started dumping snow onto the highway Sunday morning. By this (Monday) morning, two more slides had dumped snow across the highway.

Last year, WSDOT closed the North Cascades Highway for the season on Dec. 3. The 37-mile-long winter closure zone begins 14 miles east of Newhalem at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (4,855 feet) and ends 22 miles west of Winthrop at milepost 171 below Washington Pass. Avalanches usually close the highway between Thanksgiving and the second week of December.

Last spring, the highway reopened May 8. It is typically reopened between late March and early May. The earliest opening ever was March 10, 2006.

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