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Avalanches Keep Two Cross-State Highways Closed Rain, Warmer Temperatures Also Prompt Flood Warnings Around State

Wed., Feb. 7, 1996

Avalanche danger and heavy rainfall kept highways closed Tuesday across the state’s two most heavily traveled Cascade mountain passes, a state Transportation Department spokesman said.

And rivers were rising around the state as rain and mild temperatures followed last week’s deep freeze.

Rising temperatures also were considered a factor in the avalanches late Monday that closed Snoqualmie and Stevens passes, the primary links between Eastern and Western Washington.

Crews were working around the clock Tuesday trying to clear snow and debris from Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 2, said state Transportation Department spokesman Bill Southern.

But the weather was working against them.

At Snoqualmie, where Interstate 90 crosses the Cascades about 50 miles east of Seattle, the day began with heavy snow that by late afternoon had become torrential rainfall, Southern said.

The road was closed from milepost 82 near Cle Elum for westbound traffic and from milepost 34 at Edgewick Road for eastbound lanes.

The weather “gives us serious concerns … for avalanche control,” Southern said.

Stevens Pass, which channels U.S. Highway 2 across the mountains southeast of Everett, was opened briefly Tuesday afternoon and then closed again for avalanche control, Southern said.

“There’s no word as to when it will reopen,” he said.

The road was closed westbound at Coles Corner at milepost 64 and eastbound at milepost 58 at Scenic.

Avalanches Monday dumped as much as 12 feet of snow on I-90 near the pass, briefly trapping one motorist.

Don McQuilliams, 25, of Kent, Wash., was rescued within about 30 minutes. When the snowslide stopped, he brought his hands up in front of his face to clear an air pocket so he could breathe, he said.

The slides were caused by heavy new snow slipping off an ice base.

“It was just like a big cloud of smoke,” said George Wood, who was driving toward Snoqualmie Pass when the slide struck I-90.

Meanwhile, lowland flooding was reported along the Klickitat River and is expected along the Skokomish, the National Weather Service said.

Earlier Tuesday, an ice jam caused flooding on Patit Creek in Columbia and Walla Walla counties in the state’s southeastern corner, but the jam broke up and the flooding subsided.

Flood warnings are in effect for all rivers and streams in the state.

Tags: weather

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