February 21, 2012 in Region

Cascade passes closed for avalanche control

Associated Press

The westbound lanes of Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass from the summit (milepost 52) to North Bend (milepost 34) were set to reopen today at 9:30 a.m. to let local traffic off the pass, the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

Eastbound lanes of I-90 were to remain closed due to extreme avalanche danger from North Bend to Ellensburg (milepost 106).

The pass received 33.5 inches of snow over the weekend, and with the heavy rain this morning and more on the way, the avalanche danger remains high.

The state closed I-90 at 1 a.m. today to conduct avalanche control work in several locations.

The storm moving through the Northwest also has raised the chance of rivers flooding in Western Washington. Strong gusty winds could cause damage in parts of Eastern Washington.

The National Weather Service forecasts heavy rains into Wednesday, especially along the coast and mountains as the freezing level rises to 7,000 feet. On top of recent heavy snow, that creates an extreme avalanche danger in the Cascades and Olympics.

Rain and melting snow will fill rivers, and the Weather Service has issued a flood watch for most Western Washington rivers through Thursday afternoon.

Flooding also is possible in the Wenatchee River basin. Forecasters say strong localized winds are possible Tuesday night around Wenatchee.

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