Dan_Miller Posted March 10, 2012 Share Posted March 10, 2012 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.email@example.com and Dustin.firstname.lastname@example.org Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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