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Hwy. 20 Snow Clearing 2012

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Nine feet of snow at Washington Pass. Some worthwhile snowpack information contained in this annual pre-clearing assessment.

Here is the most recent North Cascades Hwy. snow clearing effort for 2012 from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson, and Dustin Terpening.

 

Photos:

 

Hi all,

 

This is the first email of the season and yes, it’s to tell you we went up to do the spring reopening assessment this week.

 

I’ll jump to the end – we plan to start clearing work the last week of this month and hope to have Tootsie serving cinnamon rolls the first week in May. Last year, you may recall, we started clearing on April 11 and didn’t get the road open until May 25 – the second latest opening ever.

 

Now to the story: The avalanche crew and some maintenance folks met at the Early Winters information center at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. It was clear and cold – about 13 degrees - which is what they wanted. They were back down and packing up the vehicles and gear again before noon because it was already 35 degrees and the hillsides had become more and more unstable as the thermometer rose.

 

Two avalanche technicians, Brandon Levy and Harlan Sheppard, were dispatched on snowmobiles to Washington Pass to dig a snow pit and do the technical snow-layer analysis and then to take the snow depth measurements from there over to Rainy Pass.

 

The second group ventured off in a snow cat to do the observations and snow depth measurements up to Washington Pass. Avalanche Control Chief Mike Stanford, avalanche tech Monica Morin, Area 3 Maintenance Superintendent Dean Hills, Twisp Supervisor Don Becker and Twisp Lead tech Deed Fink shared the cold, bouncy, 3 to 5 mph, diesel fumed experience for the next several hours. (Not as much fun as you imagine it would be - I've done it.)

 

What they found was much closer to the normal range of snow depths than they measured last year. At the Silver Star Gate, for example, the snow was 3.8 feet deep. Last year it was 4.6. Below Cutthroat Ridge chutes 6, 7 and 8, there was 16 feet of snow over the road. Last year it was 20. The snow in Spire Gulch/Spiral Gulch/The Hairpin (you choose your favorite) was 7 feet deep on Wednesday and 10 feet deep last year. At Liberty Bell Mountain, LB 1 and 2 were only 25 feet deep (this is a little misleading because the snow in the chutes that hasn’t come down yet, will likely double the depth by the time we come back). LB 3, which showed some evidence of recent slides, was 40 feet deep. Last year the highway below all three was covered to a depth of 60 feet. And just because I’ve got them and you probably want to know because I include them every year – Washington Pass - 7.5’ at the centerline of the pavement this year compared with 10’ last year. For Rainy Pass – 10’ last year and 8.3’ this year. You also need to be reminded that after the measurements from last year were taken, we got another 6 to 10 feet of snow before and during the reopening...

 

The snow pit revealed some positive news. You are aware that there have been a lot of avalanches in the Cascades this winter. With the La Nina pattern, we got a lot of snow and a lot of rain. Together those produce layering that encourages snow to slide. In Mike’s words “We found a buried weak surface hoar layer that has been a problem throughout the region this winter, however, what we saw in the snow pit is that this layer does seem to be “healing”- that is, collapsing on itself.” For those of us who aren’t familiar with the 20+ varieties of snow or how to whisper to it – I’m told that means it’s become more stable, not less so. Obviously, Mike's crew will continue monitoring for stability before we put crews or equipment under a chute with snow in it.

 

No one stopped by to chat, but Mike says they saw snowmobilers and cross country skiers. He also apologized that there were no pictures featuring Pink Floyd (the flamingo), as he’s recuperating at home from a broken leg. Mike says he should be back on the team by the time the reopening begins…

 

Of course, that reopening can’t begin until the avalanche potential on Stevens Pass diminishes (like always). The weather also has to cooperate - the equipment has to be available (and operating) - the crew has to be available (and healthy). And don’t worry about the budget – the Governor and legislature committed to fully funding winter maintenance which includes reopening the North Cascades.

 

Go check out the pictures on FlickR and Dustin is also posting them on a new site called Pinterest.

 

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629175577076/ You will note that two photos of Spiral Gulch from the day before the assessment are credited to Cliff Schwab. You may also recall he and Joy were cross country skiing there last year when he took this amazing shot of Spiral Gulch - www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/5613439648/in/set-72157607585733589. (It tallied as one of the most popular pictures on our WSDOT site!)

 

(NO, I don't know if he's available to shoot your wedding - and NO, I don't know if Tootsie will cater it, but I do know you CAN get married at the Forest Service's Washington Pass Overlook, but you can't reserve it exclusively, so plan on extra, uh, guests.) (whew)

 

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/wsdot/north-cascades-highway/

 

I won’t be jamming your email in box with updates for another two weeks unless, of course, something changes!

 

Jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov and Dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov

 

 

 

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Dan - Wow, thanks for the report - you guys do an incredible job every year, very thorough and it's actually pretty dangerous. Take care and work safe. :tup:

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Given the forecast for the next 10 days I'd say those depths are due to increase significantly.

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Given the forecast for the next 10 days I'd say those depths are due to increase significantly.

 

Let's hope so Jason!

 

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that WSDOT won't be able to keep to the schedule as outlined above. I'm pretty sure avalanche control, and road clearing efforts at Stevens Pass will curtail the late March efforts to clear Hwy 20. Time will tell I suspect.

 

I have my own selfish reasons for wanting to ski the continuing new snowfalls at Stevens' for at least a month or so yet! And I'm as eager as anyone to do the Birthday Tour, etc., all of course accesssed from Hwy 20.

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The latest update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson:

 

Hi all - here's the official news release - the clearing starts Monday!

 

Washington State Department of Transportation - NEWS

North Central Region – PO Box 98, Wenatchee, WA. 98807-0098, 509-667-3000

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Mar. 22, 2012

 

 

 

Contact: Jeff Adamson WSDOT Communications 509-667-2815

 

North Cascades Highway clearing starts March 26

 

Despite another La Nina winter, crews are optimistic SR 20 could reopen by May

 

 

 

TWISP – Early Monday morning, a five-man maintenance crew and their collection of snow-clearing equipment will head west up State Route 20, past Mazama, to the winter closure point at the Early Winters Information Center. The annual trek marks the first day of work to clear the North Cascades Highway.

 

 

 

Washington State Department of Transportation crews will begin clearing the four feet of snow at the east side barricades, which have closed the road to traffic since Nov. 21. WSDOT’s annual reopening work is starting almost three weeks earlier than last year.

 

 

 

“Last year we opened in late May, and that mean visitors coming to Winthrop’s 49’er Days festival had to use Stevens Pass to get here,” said Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker. “We know that was hard on drivers, so we’re hoping that this year, we can get the highway open by the first weekend in May.”

 

 

 

Using a Kodiak snow blower, road grader and a scoop loader, east-side crews will clear the first eight miles of the highway – between the Early Winters Information Center and the Silver Star gate. More equipment will move in by April as crews work their way west toward Washington and Rainy passes.

 

 

 

West-side crews near Diablo can’t begin work yet due to heavy snowfall – nearly 10 and a-half feet at Rainy Pass as of today.

 

Clearing work on the North Cascades Highway can’t begin in earnest until the avalanche danger on Stevens Pass subsides and they can safely move the avalanche crew north to SR 20. Clearing work from the closure gates to the first avalanche zones, however, can begin without the avalanche crew.

 

 

 

During a scouting trip up the highway March 7, crews found snow up to 60 feet deep burying the road below the Liberty Bell Mountain avalanche zone.

 

 

 

Last year, late-season snow from the La Nina winter led to the second-latest reopening on May 25, since the highway first opened in 1972. Last fall, the 34 mile stretch of SR 20 between the Skagit and Methow valleys closed due to avalanches on Nov. 21.

 

For maps, pictures, frequently asked questions and a history of opening dates, visit the North Cascades Highway website www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades/.

 

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Today's update to Monday's initial day of snow clearing from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

Day one of the 2012 Spring Reopening of the North Cascades Highway is History!

 

From the east side, the crew got a single lane cleared about four miles up from Early Winters to Varden Creek before a rear wheel seal on the Kodiak snow blower blew, ending progress for the day.

 

From the west side, the crew got about three miles above Diablo Gate before they encountered a big slide that pretty much ended the progress for their day, too.

 

There are some pictures posted on Flickr:

 

Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker said the first day was overcast and the temperature was pretty steady at about 40 degrees all day. The clearing was SLOW. Don said that the snowmobile traffic all winter compacted the snow into “two feet of ice”. The loader was used to get things started, but the Kodiak snow blower did the lion’s share of the work. They got as far as Varden Creek (MP 174) and turned around to clear the eastbound lane back down to Early Winters. Before they got very far that seal blew and day one was done.

 

This morning, the mechanics worked some magic and while the repair isn’t permanent, the blower is back at work.

 

Don’s Westside counterpart, Gary Ward tells Dustin they’ll clear as they can with the equipment available between now and Apr. 9 when the Kodiak from Skykomish arrives. Day one produced clear lanes above the Diablo Gate (MP 134) to MP 137 where the encountered a slide blocking all lanes in a location no one could ever recall seeing an avalanche there before.

 

Today, there’s a winter storm warning in effect for the west slopes of the Cascades – 3 or more inches of snow forecast the higher you go. On the eastside, the forecast for snow is about the same, but there’s no “storm warning” (?). Anyway, trust that it’s wetter (the snow that started falling about 6 a.m. hasn’t stopped) and the camera shows it’s foggier than yesterday and the weather station shows it’s about 6 degrees colder, too.

 

Let the fun begin!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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Today's (Thurs., 03/29/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson.

 

Hi all,

 

The mechanics are keeping an eye on the Kodiak’s rear wheel seal, but it ran fine for another day and by the end of Wednesday, Duane Wolley had “blown” everything from guard rail to guardrail from Early Winters (MP 177) to Varden Creek (MP 174) and had completed two passes to MP 172, about a half mile shy of Silver Star gate. Jason Newman spent the day on the grader, scraping off the layer of ice down to the pavement for those first four miles that Duane had opened up.

 

As the day began, it was 33 degrees and 2” of new snow had accumulated. The snow started falling again after lunch and continued for the next five hours or so. There was a break until about midnight when the snow began falling again and hasn’t stopped (which is the forecast for the rest of today and Friday.) Anyone planning to go up this weekend would be wise to check in with the Weather Service, the Forest Service and the NW Avalanche Center, first.

 

With no snow blower on the west side available for another week, progress clearing the snow slide at no-name creek (MP 137) is slow going with just a loader. Working conditions would have to be considered pretty yucky – the snow depth total actually went down an inch between yesterday morning and this morning, but the water total went up – that means rain. (I’m not a La Nina fan).

 

 

 

Here’s a picture of the Kodiak doing its thing Wednesday: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/6881309936/in/photostream

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

Minor update at 5:19 pm.

Hi all,

 

Work got underway this morning at 8:30 at Varden Creek (MP 174). It was 34 degrees. 3” of new snow had fallen since midnight and there was 4’ of snow on the pavement (packed, hard). By the end of the day, the road and shoulders were cleared to the Silver Star Gate, the parking area there was cleared and enough space above the gate so we could park all the equipment out of your way until the crews come back on Monday. Working conditions were less than ideal. By 3 p.m., it had warmed up a whole degree to 35, but the precipitation had turned to rain by then.

 

On the Westside – progress is still to MP 137 where the no-name creek slide is.

 

Be careful if you go up this weekend – the forecast calls for more snow and rain encourages avalanches. Our avalanche crew was busy on Stevens today and will be out again early in the morning to deal with what’s coming between now and then.

 

There are about six new pictures, but I don’t think they’ll show up on flickr until tomorrow morning.

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

 

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The storms continue to line up and once again Stevens Pass was closed for avy work today. Yet the primary drive behind the schedule is so tourists can get to Winthrop's "49er days"? I understand that people have homes in the Methow they want to get to quicker, and I love SR20 as much as the next person, but it seems like WSDOT is getting pressured more and more by the economics of tourism as opposed to the reality of the weather. It seems like more money and hassle is spent trying to force the road open earlier despite mother nature clearly showing winter is not over yet. This is just my 2 cents, and I certainly appreciate the work WSDOT does to get the road open, but it seems like maybe waiting a couple of weeks would be warranted?

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Today's (04/03/12) report from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening:

 

Hi all,

 

Week #2 got off to a good start:

 

On the Westside, Mt. Vernon Supervisor Rod Hayes provided this update: “We started widening from Diablo Gate (MP 134) with a loader mounted blower and plow truck. We were able to finish clearing the slide at No Name Creek (MP 137) and two more behind that – Avalanche chutes Ruby #9 and #10 (between MP 137 and 138, below Ruby Mtn.) Beyond that, we found pretty benign conditions with only about 1-1/2 feet of snow from there up to MP 140 where our day ended.”

 

On the Eastside, Twisp Supervisor Don Becker had this to say: “We started with Jason Newman on the grader working to remove more of the ice floor from Early Winters (MP 178) all the way to Silver Star Gate (MP 171). Once again Duane Wolley spent the day on the Kodiak snow blower clearing from Silver Star Gate toward Lone Fir campground and Cutthroat Ridge. The day began at 7 a.m. with clear skies and 24 degrees. At Silver Star Gate 2” of new snow had accumulated overnight bringing the total to 4-1/2 feet. By 2 p.m., he had cleared a mile and a half up to MP 169.3 and it had warmed up to 40 degrees.” …Positively balmy!

 

There’s about 10 feet of snow on the ground right now at Rainy and Washington Passes which is about a foot more than last Thursday. Since Thursday, the amount of precipitation that came down was closer to 3 feet, but it got warm enough when the snow stopped falling on Saturday and Sunday that it melted/compacted down.

 

Measurements are a lot easier to take on the West Slope of the Cascades at Stevens Pass where there are three electronic weather stations at different locations and elevations as well as WSDOT and Ski Area personnel who are taking physical measurements daily. Since last Thursday, Stevens got a total of 3’ of snow producing 150” on the shoulder (that’s 12 ½ feet). The total for the season is 551” (that’s 46 feet which is more than last year’s 443”or 37’- on April 2). In 2010 – the season total at Stevens was way below normal – only about 21 feet by March 1 (when snow had pretty well stopped falling, the ski area closed and everybody took their studs off early!) Again, for comparison purposes, the season average for the last 60 years at Stevens is 37 feet (that’s through the end of April, so we’ve still got a month left to increase this year’s total even more!)

 

I think I forgot to pass this along - Last Thursday the mechanics made the permanent repairs to the rear wheel (steering) seal on the Kodiak (yes, it has 4 wheel drive and also 4 wheel steering!)

 

Check out the new pictures: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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The latest update (wed., 04/04/12) from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

Here’s a quick update on Tuesday’s progress:

 

Eastside: (Twisp Supervisor Don Becker) “Tyler Miller continued scraping away at the ice floor with the grader this afternoon while Duane Wolley spent all day widening with Kodiak snow blower. It was between 35 and 45 degrees all day and overcast, but no precipitation.”

 

Westside: (Mt. Vernon Lead Tech, Gary Claybo) “The loader mounted snow blower operator cleared and widened to the shoulders up to MP 144. We are having some problems with the batteries on the blower, and some minor issues with the snowplow, too. Our mechanic is coming up from Mount Vernon today. For today, we will spend time widening out the three slide chutes at No Name Creek, and Ruby Mountain #9 and #10. The snow level is 2 ft. deep at MP 144 but is getting steadily deeper the further East we go.”

 

Gary provided new pictures of the Westside work and they’re posted on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

Note that four of the pictures Gary sent are from last week’s initial encounter with that slide at No Name Creek and the clearing work. The other four new pictures are from yesterday showing the snow blower, the plow truck, the clearing progress and how much deeper it gets the further up they progress.

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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Today's (Fri., 04/06/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker called it a good week which ended well on Thursday with cooperative weather conditions. At 2:30 in the afternoon, it was 47 and sunny! That allowed Duane and his Kodiak to clear both lanes for another couple miles past Lone Fir Campground up to Cutthroat Creek (MP 167) where the Cutthroat Ridge Avalanche Zone begins (that’s 12 chutes over about a mile where there are several places with more than 20’ of snow over the road).

 

Mike Stanford and Brandon Levy from the avalanche crew came up Thursday and checked out conditions through the zone. Provided this Easter weekend’s warm temperatures don’t cause everything to start sliding (at Stevens or Cutthroat), the avalanche crew plans to join the maintenance crew and add their snow cat to the effort to kick off Week #3.

 

On the Westside, crews cleared the highway to East Creek (MP 145) including three avalanches from MP 137 (No Name Creek) to MP 138 (Ruby Mountain). On Monday, they’ve got more help coming in the form of a giant Kodiak Snow Blower from Skykomish.

 

There is a new progress map on the NCH web page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2012.htm and there are a couple more new photos on FlickR: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

 

 

The hope is still to reopen the first week of May and so far, the crews haven’t encountered weather or equipment issues that they haven’t been able to overcome.

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

Oh, to answer a question Dustin and I have been asked this week – Nothing has changed. WSDOT is still prohibited from doing any clearing work outside our right of way unless we’re contracted to do it. So far, the Park Service, the Forest Service and DNR haven’t opened their wallets, so we’re not able to do their parking lots at any of the trailheads or campgrounds.

 

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Today's (Tues., 4/10/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson:

 

Hi all,

 

Hope your Easter was the celebration you hoped for!

 

Day 1, Week 3

 

…with lunch boxes packed with egg salad and ham and cheese sandwiches, the crews ventured up SR 20 Monday eager to resume the assault on their white nemesis…

 

(That opening line was in deference to those who have lamented that this year’s e mails lacked a certain level of literary impact.)

 

Back to reality- It was positively spring like at Cutthroat Creek – 54 degrees and sunny at mid afternoon. CR#1 only had about 8’ of extra snow accumulated below it on the road and had been determined to be stable enough to let the crew clear it without an avalanche spotter on hand.

 

The avalanche crew was down at Stevens Pass doing what they hope will be the last avalanche control needed this year. The warm temperatures over the weekend brought sunshine to “the meadows” which is a section of (Cowboy) mountain that feeds into Old Faithful #4. With the volume of snow still up there, and the potential sunshine has to cause snow layers to slide, Stevens became the priority Monday. So far as motorists were concerned, it was a non-event in that the highway was only closed for about half an hour and only a little bit of snow actually reached the road (shoulder, really). Mike Stanford was quite pleased with the effort since it “moved around” a lot of unstable snow that now will simply sit and melt (provided we don’t get a pile of new snow on top…)

 

Over the past month since the assessment trip, the accumulations on the road have grown. Cutthroat Ridge chutes #6 through 8 measured 16 feet March 7 and 18 feet last Thursday (April 5). Liberty Bell saw the same thing as LB #1 grew from 25 to 35’, LB #2 from 25 to 40’ and LB #3 from 40 to 58’.

 

By the end of Monday, the highway was widened to its full width from the gate to Cutthroat Creek and two new slots had been cut to CR#1.

 

On the Westside, progress was pretty much stopped when the transmission on the loader-mounted snow blower blew.

 

Tuesday brought reinforcements to both sides. The Skykomish Kodiak Snow Blower arrived in time to replace the smaller broken one, and a caterpillar and the avalanche crew’s snow cat joined the effort on the east side.

 

Will have new pictures posted tomorrow.

 

Jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov 509.667.2815

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------

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Today's (Wed.,04/11/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson. Photo's: note the Pieps on Floyd!

 

Hi all,

 

It’s taken two weeks plus a day, but everybody and their equipment is finally in place on both the east and west side as confirmed by the appearance of Pink Floyd (the Avalanche Crew’s safety flamingo!)

 

Check out the ten new photos from Tuesday: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

Mt. Vernon lead tech Gary Claybo says the loader-mounted snow blower they used for the last two weeks is in Seattle to be repaired and is “done for the season”. A giant Kodiak snow blower from the Skykomish shed rolled off the lowboy Tuesday and began making fast progress through the soft 4’ deep snow at East Creek. By the end of the day, it had cleared both lanes and the shoulders for the three miles to Granite Creek (MP 148).

 

On the eastside Avalanche Control Supervisor Mike Stanford and Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker filled in the details of work ranging from Cutthroat Creek to Washington Pass. A huge D-8 caterpillar we contract for, arrived from Lloyd Logging Co. in Twisp on Tuesday. The D-8 under the experienced guidance of its operator, Mark Bakken, was immediately sent ahead to begin cutting down the 18’ foot slides beneath CR#6,7,& 8 to snow blower sized heights (about 8’). The Avalanche Team’s snow cat went even further ahead, cutting a level trail over (through?) the Liberty Bell chutes (up to 60’ deep) all the way to Washington Pass. Back at CR #1, the Kodiak began blowing snow under the watchful supervision of Av. Tech Monica Morin and Floyd.

 

While the weather was nice for the crew, Stanford noted the warm brought down several natural slides and he wasn’t disappointed with the cooler forecast for the next couple of days that is bringing the freezing level down. He also noted that all the slide zones had grown just since last Thursday.

 

There is a reason that has come to light regarding why the Westside crew didn’t make as much progress as they might have last Wednesday.

 

It came in the form of a “Thank You” email from Chief Cody Watson Newhalem Diablo Fire Department. He wrote to Mt. Vernon Superintendent Gary Ward:

 

“…the Newhalem Diablo Fire Department greatly appreciates the help of your employees: Gary Claybo, Bob Hopfield, and David Dellinger. There was a serious accident on HWY 20 in the afternoon of April 4th in which your employees came to the aid of a worker (@MP139 where the National Park Service is building a new trailhead). When our ambulance arrived they continued to assist. In such a remote area, it is especially comforting to know you have such extraordinary people working for you. Please extend the Fire Department’s gratitude to your employees!"

 

Nice work guys!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Todsy's (Fri., 04/13/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson.

 

Hi all,

 

Spring came to the North Cascades on Thursday and everybody got to take the afternoon off!

 

It wasn’t planned that way, but when the sunshine and warm temperatures worked their mischief, the avalanche chutes above the crews working along Cutthroat Ridge starting spilling snow and Avalanche Chief Mike Stanford ordered everyone out.

 

Fortunately they were taking their equipment with them because it became necessary to cut their way out!

 

They had been using the snow cat, the D-6 and the D-8 caterpillars on CR 6, 7 and 8 and as the day progressed, the cats were sent ahead to start cutting down the 20+’ piles of snow on the road under CR 10. Before they were able to accomplish much, the natural avalanches began and one of the largest slides came in from CR 2 which required cat and snow blower work to reopen so the crew could “escape!” down to their cars at the gate.

 

Depending on what else slides between now and Monday, we’re arbitrarily marking the progress map at MP 166 since CR 6-8 were 90% complete the last time we saw them.

 

On the west side – again – arbitrarily, we’re declaring progress to the Northwest Region/ North Central Region boundary at MP 148.

 

We’ll find out how true that remains by Monday, too.

 

There is a new progress map on the NCH web page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2012.htm and there are a couple more new photos on FlickR: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

Jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov 509.667.2815

 

(Dustin will be away for a little while attending to Sadie Jane who arrived in the Terpening household Wednesday.) (How’s that for a progress report!)

 

 

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Today's (tues., 04/17/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson.

 

Hi all,

 

In answer to the question of the day (for some reason a lot of you chose today to ask) – No, there is no way anyone can provide a firm reopening date yet. There are too many things completely out of our control – weather – snow density – equipment breakdowns – crew availability (they get called away to emergencies, sometimes) – as well as things like avalanches. And right now – the Eastside crew isn’t even into Liberty Bell’s avalanche chutes and the Westside crew isn’t even to Rainy Pass yet.

 

The target is still to try to have it open before 49’er Days in Winthrop, and nothing, so far, makes that a bad target – but that’s what it is – a target, so if you plan a trip or make reservations that proved to be too optimistic, be forewarned. I’d wait a little longer to commit.

 

So far as what has been accomplished – on the east side, Monday and Tuesday were pretty much spent re clearing the Cutthroat Ridge avalanche zone since they dumped enough snow when it got warm last Thursday that the crews had to high tail it out of there to avoid becoming victims. There are about six new pictures from Monday showing the clean up at CR #2 and CR #8. Work continues from there through the last four Cutthroat chutes (9, 10, 11a and 11 b – and no, I don’t know why 11 b didn’t get its own number…) So, by mile posts – we’re at about 165.

 

On the Westside Mt. Vernon’s Gary Claybo says Bob Hopfield who is the designated Kodiak pilot has led the effort from Easy Pass up to Swamp Creek at mile post 153. By the end of the day, the highway was clear from shoulder to shoulder and tomorrow, he’ll start a new cut up to MP 154 through the 5’ of heavy, wet snow on the pavement. It was overcast and kind of gloomy for the past couple days, but at 44 degrees by mid afternoon, the working conditions haven’t been too bad (now that a lot of the loose stuff above the roadway came down by itself over the past five days.)

 

Oh, I should also state once again that WSDOT can only close the highway to licensed motor vehicles, so yes, bicycles are legal at any time, but they’re also a challenge to deal with if you’re the operator in the seat of a road grader, plow truck, excavator, loader or the snow blower. If you can – Friday through Sunday is a safer time to ride since the crews aren’t competing with you for pavement (and be sure to check for avalanche conditions before you go.)

 

FlickR: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

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Today's (Thurs., 04/19/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson.

 

Hi all,

 

It snowed almost constantly and visibility was poor Wednesday. Thursday was better, despite the forecast for more snow and rain all day.

 

SR 20 on the Westside has been cleared from guardrail to guardrail from MP 148, Granite Creek to MP 152, the Easy Pass Trailhead through Swamp Creek at MP 153 to the chain up area at MP 154. Bob Hopfield’s Kodiak Snow Blower was held up a couple times by trees buried in the snow, but he made good progress through the five feet of white stuff on the pavement under less than ideal conditions.

 

On the Eastside, the second Kodiak Snow Blower from Stevens Pass joined the effort Wednesday afternoon under the skillful guidance of Tyler Miller. He, Jesse Gurney on the excavator and Jason Newman on the loader spent their time widening from CR #6 to CR #10. Duane Wolley on the other Kodiak headed off making a single cut into the Annex (or Hairpin/Spire/Spiral Gulch) along with Scott Reagles on the D-6 caterpillar. Mark Bakken on the Lloyd’s Logging D-8 pushed ahead even further to begin cutting down the 35’+ accumulation below Liberty Bell #1.

 

Nothing came down, but Avalanche Chief Mike Stanford put eight rounds from the Howitzer into the avalanche chutes around the Annex and Liberty Bell Mtn. Everybody breathes a little easier when they know that hillside above them is going to stay there!

 

When they begin week 5 on Monday, the two crews will be heading into the ten toughest miles of clearing between MP 154 and MP 164 that includes Rainy and Washington Passes and the Blue Lake and Liberty Bell Avalanche zones.

 

There is a new progress map on the NCH web page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2012.htm and there are more new photos on FlickR: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

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Today's (Tues., 04/24/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

Eastside – Don Becker reports that Duane Wolley on the Kodiak and Scott Reagles on the D-6 cat worked from the Annex (Spiral Gulch) around to Liberty Bell #1 in the morning then joined Mark Bakken (Lloyd Logging – D-8 cat) clearing LB 1. Tyler Miller in the other Kodiak and Jesse Gurney on the excavator finished widening the Annex up to LB 1. With the warm temperatures, the avalanche crew put up 10 shots about noon into LB 2 and 3 with “good results” (brought down significant snow).

 

Westside - Bob Hopfield and the Kodiak snow blower finished the first cut into and out from MP 156 about a mile below Rainy Pass. Lead tech Gary Claybo says it was 53 degrees with sunny blue skies by Monday afternoon. Snow depth on the pavement keeps climbing – it’s up to about 7 feet which slows the progress a bit.

 

New photos on flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

The hope is still to reopen sometime the first week of May and so far, the crews haven’t encountered weather or equipment issues that they haven’t been able to overcome.

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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Today's (Wed., 04/25/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

The highway WILL NOT BE OPEN by this weekend, despite rumors and wishes to the contrary. As of today, the NW Region crew has yet to reach Rainy Pass and the North Central Region crew is still a couple huge avalanche chutes shy of reaching Washington Pass. If both crews can make it that far by close of business, this week, that still leaves them five miles of 7 to 10’ snow apart, and no, hiking those five miles carrying a bike on your back is an unwise choice. (We, however, would likely find you with the snow blower in another week or so.)

 

On the Westside, Bob Hopfield and the Skykomish Kodiak snow blower continue pushing east from MP 156 which is about a half mile shy of Porcupine Creek. The snow is still soft, but at seven feet, it’s right about the limit of what a snow blower can “eat” without help, so he got some. Twisp Supervisor Don Becker sent the avalanche crew’s snow cat with its plow blade over to cut/compact the piles of snow on the road down to a more manageable height. Mt. Vernon Lead Tech Gary Claybo says the rest of the Westside crew’s ditching operations are going well and another crew is repairing guardrail damaged by rock fall and snow slides during the winter.

 

On the eastside work continues through LB #1 and LB #2. You might want to check out the new flickr picture of the cleanup of a natural slide that came in down in the Annex yesterday. They had to clear it before the crews working Liberty Bell could get out.

 

www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/ If you look at the sky in the photos from the past couple days, you’ll note it was beautiful Monday and by today, downright yukky. (Fortunately, the heaviest blast of snow and rain didn’t hit until after 4, but what they find tomorrow could be interesting…

 

The hope is still to reopen sometime the first week of May, if everything cooperates.

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

PS. We (and the Forest Service and Park Service folks, too) have been getting deluged with phone calls from fishermen and bicyclists who either want to know, or say they’ve heard that the highway will be open by this weekend. If you have an opening day fishing fan or an early season bicyclist among your friends – please forward this along to them. Here’s the link so they can sign up for these e mails: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOT/subscriber/new?

 

Thanks!

 

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Today's (Thurs., 04/26/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

The weather this (Thursday) morning was awful, rain becoming snow the higher up you went. That ramped up the avalanche danger to the point that the avalanche crew pulled everyone off the mountain. It means the clearing on the eastside won't reach Washington Pass as hoped. Right now, the clearing ends in the 60+ feet of snow below LB #3. The westside crew's progress ends just below Rainy Pass.

 

The net effect is that the pass won't be opening next week, but hopefully early the following week. The target has always been to have it open for Winthrop's 49'er Days (May 12 & 13) which is still realistic if weather and equipment cooperate.

 

I'm having three pictures from yesterday's work up to Liberty Bell posted on the flickr site. www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/ I'm also updating the map on the NCH spring opening web page and posting the "bureaucratic version" of the week's progress report. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2012.htm

 

Since I've got your attention, I'll offer a pair of youtube videos for your edification - our compatriots down Snoqualmie put one together on the construction work this summer and the traffic impact that it's going to bring. As difficult as it may be to imagine - it's VERY cool.

 

I've been drawing attention all week in my orange nikes and golf shirt to gain attention for Work Zone Safety week. This video isn't nearly as much fun, but the subject is a serious one.

 

As I mentioned in the last update, fishermen and bicyclists are calling to see if the highway is open yet, so if you have an opening day fishing fan or an early season bicyclist among your friends – please forward this along to them. Here’s the link so they can sign up for these e mails: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOT/subscriber/new?

 

Thanks!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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"our compatriots down Snoqualmie put one together on the construction work this summer and the traffic impact that it's going to bring. As difficult as it may be to imagine - it's VERY cool."

 

 

I was highly skeptical when I read this part of your post. But after watching the video, it's the cutest thing I've ever seen on such a mundane topic! Well done!

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Today's (Tues., 05/01/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

Week number six (Day 21-Monday) got underway with cold temperatures, snow and a broken snow blower.

 

Gary Claybo (Lead Tech - Mt. Vernon) said that on the west side, it warmed all the way up to 34 degrees at Rainy Pass. Bob Hopfield and his Kodiak cleared another mile through 7 to 10 feet of snow to MP 158, about a half mile past Rainy. It's going to take another day to finish the widening. At that elevation (4,855') the precipitation that was rain in the Skagit Valley came down on the crew in the form of heavy, wet snow.

 

On the eastside, Don Becker (Supv.-Twisp) said the day began with the loss of one of the Kodiak snow blowers - a U-Joint broke. Don drove to Wenatchee, got the part and only missed half of "The Voice" by the time he got back home late for dinner, so they expected to complete the repairs and be back to full strength (two Kodiaks) today. Despite a high temperature of only 37 degrees and snow at 5,477' all day, The crew made pretty good progress, anyway. The cold temperatures stabilized the slopes allowing the D-8 cat (from Lloyd Logging) to finish its work through the Liberty Bell zone and it was sent back to Twisp at the end of the day. The pavement is now visible (even though the widening isn't finished) all the way to Washington Pass!

 

That means the two crews are five miles and only a couple avalanche zones (smaller ones) apart. That is good news, but with the snow, the forecast for more all week, and the potential for more equipment breakdowns always looming - no one is ready to make any reopening predictions yet. (Let's see how the rest of the week progresses...)

 

Don has some photos of the broken Kodiak, but the camera and computer decided not to play well together this morning, so you'll have to wait till tonight or tomorrow for fresh photos from Liberty Bell.

 

We know there were a lot of you who made plans anticipating the highway would be open this week. Thanks for being patient (and forgiving) and try to enjoy the unexpected opportunity on US 2 to visit Leavenworth or swing through Wenatchee during the Apple Blossom Festival this week (elephant ears are a forbidden fruit I only succumb to once a year - at Memorial Park!)

 

Keep your fingers crossed!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

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Getting Close!

 

Today's (Fri., 05/04/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

Hi all,

 

Week number six (Day 24-Thursday) ended like it started on Monday with cold temperatures and snow (but no broken blowers!)

 

It has also produced the first almost, sort of, maybe “reopening date” prediction – next Thursday (or…Friday.) Let's hope so, for Ski In's sake!

 

Gary Claybo (Lead Tech - Mt. Vernon) reports that Bob Hopfield and his Kodiak has cut to Bridge Creek at MP 159.5 through 7 to 10 feet of snow about two miles past Rainy.

 

On the eastside, Don Becker (Supv.-Twisp) reports progress to Whistler at MP 161 about a mile and a half past Washington, so the two crews are about a mile and a half apart.

 

It’s likely the two can meet on Monday, if weather and equipment cooperate, but the progress points are only a single snow blower wide (about 8’), so there’s lots of widening, ditching and guardrail repair before it’s ready for traffic.

 

The work is slow because the Kodiak snow blower “mouths” are 6’ high. The snow on the road is 7 to 10’ deep. When a Kodiak is chewing into a pile of newly fallen snow, it can take on a pile that’s 8’ deep because it’s lighter, softer and collapses by itself. When the snow has been accumulating all winter, it more closely resembles concrete and doesn’t collapse. That’s why we use the caterpillars to cut the piles down to 6’. Needless to say – it also takes longer to clear because the blower is blowing snow that’s much heavier and denser than say the fresh stuff that comes down the avalanche chutes on Stevens the same day it fell from the sky.

 

The cold and snow all week made working conditions less than comfortable, but it kept the slopes stable and despite a broken U Joint on an eastside Kodiak and a broken bolt on the Westside Kodiak – crews made good progress. The forecast for early next week is warm. That should work in our favor, too. We would prefer empty avalanche chutes when the road reopens, so a couple days of warm weather suggests a significant avalanche control effort Wednesday, allowing a “safe” Thursday reopening.

 

Think cinnamon rolls and 49er Days and keep your fingers crossed!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

 

 

There are new pictures from the week posted on the flickr site. www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/ I'm also updating the map on the NCH spring opening web page and posting the "bureaucratic version" of the week's progress report. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2012.htm

 

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Today's update (Mon., 05/07/12) update from WSDOT's Jeff Adamson and Dustin Terpening.

 

Hi all,

 

East met West about 11 o’clock this morning at Bridge Creek (MP 159.5)!

 

I still can’t give you a specific day or time for the reopening, but midday on Thursday is looking better and better after today.

 

The two Kodiak snow blower operators – Bob Hopfield from the west and Jesse Gurney from the east, completed a single cut through the 1-1/2 miles that separated them in about four hours. Yes, there are photos posted on flickR taken by Twisp Supervisor Don Becker who then used his pickup to give you a feel for just how wide a single cut really is (or isn’t!) and how deep some of the drifts were in the neighborhood below the Whistler Mountain avalanche chutes. www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157629681048559/

 

The rest of the next couple days will be devoted to the widening, initially the section opened today from Whistler (MP 160.5) to Rainy Pass (MP 157). There’s still pull-outs that need to be cleared, ditching that needs to happen so the melting snow doesn’t flood the highway and some guardrail that suffered slide damage that all has to happen before the reopening. Wednesday, the avalanche crew is going to do their thing to bring down any snow still in the chutes that three days of warm weather may have loosened.

 

It’s likely the two can meet on Monday, if weather and equipment cooperate, but the progress points are only a single snow blower wide (about 8’), so there’s lots of widening, ditching and guardrail repair before it’s ready for traffic.

 

While it’s legal for bicycles to use the highway because they’re not licensed motor vehicles – crews from both sides tell us it’s getting crowded up there (heaviest traffic on the west side) and it’s a big concern for our operators since bikes are hard to spot in the mirrors of a loader or a blower. The widening, ditching, guardrail and jersey barrier work is going on all day Tuesday and with avalanche blasting planned for Wednesday (along with the necessary clean up) – this is just not a good time to bicycle the North Cascades – Wait for Thursday!

 

As I said Friday = Think cinnamon rolls and 49er Days and keep your fingers crossed!

 

jeff.adamson@wsdot.wa.gov (509) 667-2815

 

dustin.terpening@wsdot.wa.gov (360) 757-5997

 

For you Pink Floyd (the safety flamingo) fans – Zoe at the Bellingham Herald did a story about him: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2012/05/05/2509685/plastic-flamingo-warns-of-danger.html

 

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