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Avalanche danger closes North Cascades Highway for winter

Road crews working for the Washington state Department of Transportation work through an avalanche zone near Liberty Bell Mountain while clearing the North Cascades Highway on April 13, 2016.
Road crews working for the Washington state Department of Transportation work through an avalanche zone near Liberty Bell Mountain while clearing the North Cascades Highway on April 13, 2016. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

State Route 20 will remain closed through winter across the North Cascades because of increased avalanche risk as snow continues to fall from a series of late fall storms.

Washington state Department of Transportation officials closed a 37-mile stretch of the route, also called the North Cascades Highway, temporarily on Friday morning. The closure is from milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass, 14 miles east of Newhalem, to milepost 171, 22 miles west of Winthrop.

After evaluating the passes, the closure was made permanent.

“While there hasn’t been a ton of snow on the road, it’s continued building at higher elevations in the chutes,” Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker said. “The potential avalanche risk makes reopening unsafe for our crews and drivers.”

North Cascades Highway portion of SR-20 closes every winter and reopens in spring. It closed Nov. 16, 2015, and opened April 22, 2016.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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