Skiers, students heading back to Washington State and Gonzaga, and all other eastbound travelers be advised: Heavy, wet snow has sent dozens of cars careening off Interstate 90, forcing multiple shutdowns of the highway over the past day near Snoqualmie Pass.
At the summit, I-90 eastbound will be closed at 4 Sunday morning for avalanche control, said the state’s Department of Transportation. The work usually takes less than two hours, depending on the amount of debris that comes down. This is the first such mission in this winter season.
After a series of overnight closures and nearly 50 cars reportedly spinning out, traffic was backed up for 2 miles and almost three hours near the pass on Saturday morning. The highway reopened at 11:17 a.m. Saturday, closed again just after 2 p.m., opened again around 3:45 p.m. And so it went.
No injuries have been reported, said Washington State Patrol spokesperson Trooper John Bryant.
Westbound driving is tricky, as well, of course. Spinouts blocking the highway just west of the summit led to a pass closure late Saturday afternoon.
Bottom line: Be prepared for tough conditions and to sit in your car for awhile if the road closes.
Chains are required in this weather, Bryant said. Troopers are checking all eastbound cars for chains, cables or alternative traction devices at mile marker 47. Drivers without traction devices will be turned around, and also risk a $503 fine.
Nor are drivers of four-wheel drive cars exempt: State law says that although cars with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive don’t need to use chains, they still need to carry them. Everyone else will need to pull over and put on chains — so be sure to bring warm clothes.
His other big pieces of advice: Slow down.
“Just because you have traction doesn’t mean you have stopping power,” he said. “Go a little under the speed limit, even with chains.”
Drivers should familiarize themselves with the state’s tips for winter driving before heading into the mountains, said Summer Derrey, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
As of 3 p.m. Saturday, nearly two feet of snow have fallen on the pass in the past 24 hours. Heavy snow conditions are expected to continue through Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
“We want everyone to get where they want to go, but the weather types were right on this one,” Bryant said. Drivers should check the state transportation department’s traffic alerts for the most up-to-date road closures.