Spring is here, my mailbox says. I subscribe to WSDOT's news feed on the North Cascade Highway, and after months of silence, this showed up in my email. Even though it said snow! delays! The birds singing, the crocus blooming, the early daffodils.... There is no more certain sign of spring than talk of opening the mountain passes.
"Our Avalanche Control Team and the Twisp Maintenance Superintendent were planning to do the assessment of the North Cascades Highway on Tuesday and then it was postponed to Wednesday and now the trip is postponed until next week.
We've got mountain snow forecast through Thursday and the Avalanche crew can't be in two places at once, so they're going to have to stay at Stevens handling the avalanche control there for the rest of the week. (We did control work from 2 to 6 a.m. this morning and brought down a lot of snow, but there was a lot to bring down - We got 32" of new from 6 a.m. yesterday to 6 a.m. today.) You may also be aware, it's still snowing along the entire west slope of the Cascades - as I'm writing, Snoqualmie is still closed for avalanche control. (They've been getting more snow than Stevens today as the storm track is heavier to the south and coming in low - Snoqualmie is a 1,000' lower than Stevens, too).
When the assessment happens isn't that critical - as a matter of fact, the later it's done, the more accurately Mike and his snow wizards can make their predictions. The assessment trip is to determine how soon the clearing can begin and what resources (people and equipment) are going to be needed.
Oh, in answer to the question you didn't ask - it has been costing around $250,000 for the spring reopening effort. We are hoping we won't have to rent a lot of the big caterpillars (which WSDOT doesn't own) to keep the price down, but the reopening budget is secure. Despite the budget cutting the Governor and the legislature have done (are doing) - they all said no to any cuts to winter highway maintenance.
I'll let you know when the assessment trip is rescheduled and then what they found and what it means.