GLACIER - Mount Baker Highway east of Glacier reopened Friday, Dec. 21, after state Department of Transportation crews finished clearing the 175 trees that had toppled onto the road because of recent wet, snowy and windy weather.
"It was a real team effort. We had 14 guys up there," Bronlea Mishler, DOT spokeswoman, said Friday of the effort that led to the 4 p.m. reopening. "A lot of work, 175 trees in the course of three whole days, that's amazing."
That, in turn, will allow Mt. Baker Ski Area to reopen Saturday in full operation from both base areas, starting at 9 a.m.
"We're expecting a beautiful weekend with light snow showers and about 4 to 6 inches of new snow each day," said Gwyn Howat, operations manager for the ski area. "The weather is expected to settle into a more normal pattern."
The portion of the highway east of Glacier was temporarily closed Tuesday night, when a few trees began falling, reopened, and then closed again early Wednesday, when a crush of wind, snow and rain sent tree after tree crashing onto the road.
In some cases, the weight of the snow, coupled with the saturated ground, uprooted entire trees, and others snapped and came down.
Crews said it was unusual for that many trees to come down in such a short time.
Six feet of snow has fallen on the highway since Dec. 14.
A break from wind and snow on Friday, Dec. 21, after white-out conditions on Thursday - coupled with additional crews and equipment - provided the window needed to clear the highway.
No one was trapped by the closure, which was roughly a quarter-mile past Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza & Bar.
The ski area has been closed since Wednesday.
Ski area officials said Friday that 98 inches of snow had fallen within the past six days.
"It's beautiful snow conditions right now, dry light snow," Howat said. "It has consolidated some from the last couple of days as it's had time to settle, but certainly it's great conditions."
Although forecasts call for calmer weather, DOT spokesman Dave Chesson urged motorists to drive carefully.
"Use caution when you're driving up there and be careful if you come across a tree in the road," he said.
The DOT said motorists headed to the mountain Saturday should be prepared for winter conditions and must carry chains.
CHECK SKI AREA STATUS
To check on the status of Mt. Baker Ski Area, go online to mtbaker.us.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS
Washington Department of Transportation has posted more photos of the incident at its Flickr page.
Reach KIE RELYEA at email@example.com or call 715-2234.