A winter storm ripped through the Cascades, prompting major-highway closures and delays.

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Drivers in Western Washington face major delays as a winter storm ripped through the Cascades, prompting major-highway closures.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) closed both directions of Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 from North Bend to Ellensburg, Kittitas County — about a 79-mile stretch — due to heavy snow and avalanche danger around 8 p.m. Wednesday. The highway was still closed Thursday morning.

Stevens Pass was also closed early Thursday, with no estimated time of reopening.


Stormy weather tips

Because of the heavy snowfall, state officials advised travelers to hold off on making trips through the Cascades until later Thursday, when forecasters expect the massive storm over the mountains to subside.

“We don’t recommend going into the passes if you don’t need to go,” said Justin Fujioka, WSDOT spokesman. “If you must go, go prepared.”

On Wednesday, eastbound lanes of I-90 were temporarily closed at Denny Creek,  west of Snoqualmie Pass, due to multiple collisions and spin-outs. On both Snoqualmie and Stevens passes, chains were required for all vehicles except those with all-wheel drive.

If people must drive before Christmas Eve, drivers should expect delays and carry an extra flashlight, food, water and blankets, according to the National Weather Service and transportation agencies. They should check WSDOT’s mountain-pass reports for driving conditions before setting out.

“We’ve been having a lot of spin outs, especially with the larger vehicles,” Fujioka said. “That’s another reason to drive an OK speed.”

The weather service issued a winter-storm warning, saying that by late Wednesday, new snow accumulations could range between 1 and 2.5 feet in places, including Snoqualmie Pass and Mount Rainier. And the weather agency Wednesday night issued a winter-weather advisory for the lowlands nearest to the North Cascades.

For the Seattle area, the weather agency’s outlook as of Wednesday evening showed a 50 percent chance of rain and snow Thursday evening, Christmas Eve, and a 40 percent chance of snow showers before 10 a.m. Friday in the metro area.

According to the service, the Seattle area historically has less than a 10 percent chance of a white Christmas, commonly defined as having an inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day.