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There’s 4 feet less snow on the North Cascades Highway this year — when will it open?

Five facts about the North Cascades Highway

The Washington State Department of Transportation clears the North Cascades Highway each spring to allow travelers access to the high road that links Whatcom and Skagit counties with Okanogan County. Here are five facts about the highway.
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The Washington State Department of Transportation clears the North Cascades Highway each spring to allow travelers access to the high road that links Whatcom and Skagit counties with Okanogan County. Here are five facts about the highway.

Crews have started to clear the snow from scenic North Cascades Highway and expect to finish it in four to six weeks, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

That’s welcome spring news for Whatcom County residents who want to drive east to play in the Methow Valley or visit other places that are part of the Cascade Loop.

During a trip to assess conditions March 18, avalanche and maintenance crews found 6 feet of snow at Rainy and Washington passes — 4 feet less than last year, the agency said in a news release.

The lower snowpack could make for a faster opening this year of what’s also known as State Route 20, as long as the weather stays warm and there’s no late spring snow.

The seasonal snow-clearing effort began Monday, WSDOT reported.

A 37-mile stretch of the highway, between Diablo and Mazama, has been closed to vehicle traffic since Nov. 28 because of snow and avalanche danger.

It takes two state Department of Transportation crews, one working from the west and the other from the east until they meet near Rainy Pass.

Once crews clear the snow, they will reopen that section to vehicle traffic after making any needed repairs to the highway, signs and guardrails.

The east-west connector provides another way across the Cascades, reconnects U.S. Bike Route 10 and improves access to North Cascades National Park.

The highway, 5,477 feet at its highest point, usually opens for spring between late March and early May.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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