Both directions of Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass are open. About 1 a.m. Friday, the westbound lanes were opened. On Thursday, eastbound lanes reopened at 7 p.m. Stevens Pass is also open.
Interstate 90 westbound reopened at Snoqualmie Pass about 1 a.m. Friday, allowing holiday travelers to make their way to family and friends long before Christmas dinner. But driving requires patience and skill, as the road remains slick with compacted snow and ice.
Conditions are improving, as officials are no longer required everyone to chain up. Traction tires are advised.
A widespread power outage over the pass means some transportation-department message signs are out.
Heavy snow and high avalanche danger forced the closures of I-90 and Stevens Pass on Thursday, wrecking Christmas Eve plans for travelers wanting to use the two major routes over the Cascades.
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Eastbound I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass reopened at 7 p.m. Thursday, with westbound lanes following around 1 a.m. Friday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The area spans about 78 miles from North Bend to Ellensburg.
Snow is not expected to be a problem if you’re traveling over the Cascades this weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“I don’t think you will be getting any traffic advisory. It’s mostly sunny and dry over Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass Saturday,” said meteorologist Johnny Burg.
For Sunday, he said, it’s looking like 1 to 4 inches, but nothing like the torrent of snow that led officials to close the passes before the holiday, Burg said.
Stevens Pass over Highway 2 reopened shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday after a morning closure. At first, chains were required on vehicles without all-wheel drive, but as conditions eased, the transportation department lifted the requirement and advised having vehicles with traction tires.
About 25 inches of snow fell on Snoqualmie Pass in 24 hours, the department said Thursday. New snow-total readings were not available Friday, Burg said, because of the power outages. More than 112 inches of snow had fallen on the pass in the past week, officials said Thursday.
At one area of Snoqualmie Pass, 15 feet of snow covered all lanes Thursday, WSDOT said.
The amount of snow and the number of passes affected, especially for this time of year, is rare, officials said. About 300 to 400 inches of snow usually falls at Snoqualmie Pass for the entire winter.
WSDOT advised travelers Wednesday to wait until Thursday to cross the passes because of heavy snow. On Thursday, however, the department said drivers should find alternate routes because Snoqualmie Pass would be closed through the day.
“We recognize closing the pass presents a hardship to travelers and don’t do it lightly. Safety has to come first,” WSDOT tweeted.
At both ends of the Snoqualmie Pass closure, many drivers turned around instead of waiting, the department said. Others were stranded along the closed route.
Brad Wolhart, 24, of Brainerd, Minn., spent Thursday at a hotel after his car broke down the day before near the top of the pass. Wolhart, who was driving with his girlfriend to Bothell to spend time with her family, said he wasn’t sure when a tow truck would be able to reach him.
“We are not sure when we will be able to get down and head west, because we may not be able to get a tow truck until Monday,” Wolhart said. “As for now, we are just happy to be safe but would love to be home spending the holidays with her family.”
In addition to Stevens Pass, several alternate routes to Eastern Washington are available, including Highway 12 over White Pass, Highway 14, and Interstate 84, which goes through Oregon.
Some Western Washington travelers opted to fly across the state rather than drive through the passes. One-way tickets for Thursday were listed around $230 for the hourlong flight from Seattle to Spokane; airfare for Christmas Day was priced around $200.
The Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass ski resorts closed Thursday because of the pass closures. The Summit at Snoqualmie lost power and, for the first time, had to operate all day Wednesday with a backup generator.
Stevens Pass Ski Resort closed four hours early. With Highway 2 temporarily closed, only employees and some of the “true powder-chasers” were on the slopes Thursday morning, so officials opted to close the resort at noon, spokeswoman Alysa Hetze said. The resort will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday.
Though the snow created havoc for many travelers, it made for “really great skiing,” Hetze said.
Skiers scrambled to leave Crystal Mountain Resort Wednesday evening, after toppled trees and a vehicle collision closed a 35-mile-stretch of Highway 410 between Enumclaw and the resort.
Transportation crews opened the road about two hours after the closure, though some drivers were stuck in gridlock for longer.
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Lorna Fluegel, the resort’s office manager, said though her typical 25-minute commute took 3.5 hours, she took the slow drive in stride. Some families who were parked got out to play in the snow, so snowmen lined the highway, she said.
“Everybody had a pretty good attitude,” she said.
At Snoqualmie Pass, state crews monitored some 30 avalanche chutes on the hillsides east of the pass, in locations that have a history of snow or rock slides.
Five of these spots are next to the former westbound snowshed, which was demolished in 2014. This location, on a curve, is considered the most difficult area to clear, said WSDOT Travis Phelps.
Workers on skis have been planting concussion devices to detonate snowbanks. At other locations, a small cannon is used to lob ordnance into slide zones, he said.
“It hasn’t all been about snow. Some of it is about falling trees and leaning trees” due to heavy snow.