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Deadly weekend in North Cascades; dozens more stuck after avalanche closes Highway 20

Video of avalanche moving across North Cascades Highway

Awesome video shows an avalanche moving across SR 20 east of Newhalem earlier Sunday. WSDOT officials say the highway will remain closed at milepost 122.5 until at least Monday.
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Awesome video shows an avalanche moving across SR 20 east of Newhalem earlier Sunday. WSDOT officials say the highway will remain closed at milepost 122.5 until at least Monday.

Three people died in separate avalanches in the North Cascades Sunday and about 60 people were stuck along Highway 20 after another avalanche blocked the roadway there.

State transportation officials said Monday afternoon that crews had cleared one lane of Highway 20, also known at the North Cascades Highway, after more than 55 people were stuck between the avalanche blockage and the gates that close Highway 20 for the season.

Ally Barrera, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Transportation, said no cars were struck by falling snow or ice in the avalanche, which was estimated at about 300 feet wide and 25 to 35 feet high.

The avalanche prevented dozens from leaving the area Monday morning. About twenty of them are Seattle City Light workers, who live and work near Diablo Lake, where the utility has facilities. Nearly thirty were affiliated with the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, a field campus in North Cascades National Park. Four snowshoers, a WSDOT employee and a security officer made up the rest of those stuck because of the blockage.

“Everyone has shelter and food and all that stuff,” Barrera said.

Others were not so fortunate, as a convergence over the Pacific Northwest dumped more than two feet of snow in some alpine regions. inlcuding 23 inches at Mount Baker, according to the National Weather Service.

Near Snoqualmie Pass, two male teenagers died while snowshoeing in a backwoods area near the Alpental ski resort, the King County Sheriff’s Office reported Monday. The 17-year-old and 18-year-old were not immediately identified.

In Kittitas County, Joseph Simenstad of Issaquah was killed while snowmobiling at Crystal Spring Sno-Park, according to a KIRO-TV report. Four people were snowmobiling when they were struck by the avalanche. Two were buried under the snow and the group could revive only one of the victims.

WSDOT also closed Highway 2 at Stevens Pass for five hours Sunday due to poor visibility.

The National Weather Service forecast 10-20 inches of snow through Monday as a winter storm passes through the Cascades.

The Seattle Times contributed to this report.

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