Snoqualmie Pass reopens

Snoqualmie Pass reopens
SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. -- I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass was reopened Saturday morning after avalanches and heavy snow kept the pass closed for days.

Department of Transportation crews worked all night to reopen the pass at about 4 a.m.

Avalanche control teams used more than 365 pounds of explosives to clear 30 avalanche paths on Friday and crews worked through the night to clear snow off the road.

I-90 had been closed since Wednesday afternoon because of avalanche danger. Transportation officials believe the road is safe from avalanches, for now. But that doesn't mean winter driving conditions have gone away. Drivers can expect snow and ice across all lanes of I-90 Saturday near the pass.

The DOT says it will close the freeway for at least an hour at a time as it continues to do avalanche control work.

Since the series of storms began last Sunday, Transportation Department avalanche control experts, working with avalanche specialists from two nearby ski areas, have used a total of 1,500 pounds of explosives to cause avalanches. Additional snow blowers from other areas of the state have been brought in to help remove the dislodged snow.

The pass closure was the longest since a storm shut down traffic over the pass for about 84 hours between Dec. 28, 1996, and Jan. 2, 1997, DOT spokeswoman Alice Fiman said.

More than 5 feet of snow has fallen on the pass 50 miles east of Seattle in the series of storms. The Transportation Department said Friday morning that 19 inches had fallen at the pass in the previous 24 hours, and the National Weather Service forecast up to 20 inches more by early Saturday.

Snow depth on 3,022-foot-high Snoqualmie Pass was at 130 inches, or 165 percent of the average Feb. 1 seasonal amount, weather service meteorologist Dennis D'Amico in Seattle said earlier Friday.

The heavy snow delighted operators of mountain ski resorts, even if customers couldn't reach the slopes. At The Summit at Snoqualmie, normally the state's busiest resort, the hills were quiet and buried under rare powder snow, but marketing director Guy Lawrence said the loss of business was "a hiccup so far" in an otherwise lucrative winter.

Other resorts still reachable in Washington's mountains reported a surge in business, both because of Snoqualmie's closure and the excellent conditions.

Still, the long shutdown of I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass has disrupted the state's economy, Gregoire and other officials said. Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said 7,000 trucks cross the pass each day, about one quarter of total traffic on the pass.

State officials had no estimate on how much the pass closure might be costing the state each day. Gregoire said her emergency declaration was largely based on the potential economic losses.