Pass closures Sunday as snow turns to rain; high avalanche danger

Avalanche Kittitas County
Image Credit: KAPP-KVEW

8:30 AM MONDAY UPDATE – Mountain passes remain closed Monday; Extreme avalanche danger

FIRST ALERT WEATHER – Wind Advisory in effect Monday, gusts up to 50 MPH possible -Kristin

Some of the main passes linking western and eastern Washington were shut down for avalanche control work early Sunday and more closures are ahead.

WSDOT reported just after 1 p.m. that Snoqualmie and Stevens passes will close this evening and White Pass will be monitored.

I-90/Snoqualmie Pass will close in both directions at 6 pm from North Bend MP 34 to Easton MP 70 due to avalanche danger. I-90 will be assessed in the morning. US 2/Stevens is also closing at 6 pm & US 12/White Pass is being evaluated.

WSDOT reports U.S. 2 Stevens Pass will be closed in both directions from milepost 58 at Scenic to milepost 64.5 at the summit at 6:00 p.m. due to heavy rains and increased avalanche danger.

“The pass will remain closed overnight. Avalanche control operations are scheduled for 7:00 a.m. on Monday, February 22nd. There is currently no estimated time for reopening,” said a post on the WSDOT Travel Alerts page.

WSDOT tweeted at 11:15 a.m. that a seven-mile stretch of U.S. 2 Stevens Pass had closed:

Pass Closure on both dirs. US 2 near Co Rd from mp 58 to mp 65

All of this comes as the mountains experience a weather change from cold and snowy to warm and windy. A lot of mountain snow is about to melt so be prepared for changing conditions on the roads and make sure to drive for those conditions.

LOCAL FORECAST: A windy, warm weekend

Avalanche control was completed on Snoqualmie and Stevens passes on Sunday morning.

When open, chains are required on all vehicles except AWD/4WD – all vehicles must have chains or approved alternatives available. WSDOT asks that you please follow requirements, slow down and be prepared for delays/closures.

A prolonged period of wet weather and the potential for avalanches in Washington and Oregon is expected to begin Sunday.

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The effects from rain and considerable mountain snow will be felt through early this week. With the ground already saturated from previous storms, flooding is possible even from the few inches of rain the storm is forecast to produce.

Avalanche warnings have been issued for much of the Cascades across Washington ahead of this heavy snow. A “high” avalanche danger warning (level 4 out of 5) has been issued for Sunday by the Northwest Avalanche Center. Large natural avalanches are possible even at lower elevations.

RELATED: Avalanche kills WSP trooper from Cle Elum

Avalanches have killed 30 people across the United States this winter season, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

RELATED: As more avalanches fell, Kittitas County team fought to find friend buried in snow

“This will mark the beginning of a wet period across Western Washington, as the southern periphery of the Atmospheric River will affect the region before it shifts southward over the area Monday,” the National Weather Service office in Seattle warned Saturday.

This could be another notable weather event for parts of Washington and Oregon, with localized urban and river flooding along with gusty winds which could lead to power outages across both states.

Keep track of the mountain passes here.