North Cascades Highway reopens

Washington state Transportation Department crews have reopened the North Cascades Highway after its winter closure.

Friday's reopening is one of the earliest in the highway's 42-year history. The stretch of highway over the North Cascades is usually closed during the winter between Diablo and west of Mazama because of snow and avalanche danger.

Crews began clearing process the highway, also known as State Route 20, on March 16. Last year it took crews nearly six weeks to clear the highway. The earliest opening ever was on March 10, 2005, but two weeks later snow closed the highway for another 10 days, reopening again on April 4. There was one year, 1977, when the highway never closed due to a drought.

"We all live up here and know it's important for local businesses to have the highway open as soon as it's safe," said Don Becker, a WSDOT maintenance supervisor.

The mid-morning reopening allowed the crew to sweep the 37-mile closure zone for rocks and debris, clear any snow below avalanche chutes and apply sand or deicer as needed.

While the highway is open, drivers still should be prepared for winter driving conditions, and should carry chains or approved traction devices, WSDOT said.

For more information, including a history of opening and closing dates, maps, photos and progress reports on the 2015 opening, visit the North Cascades web page.