UPDATE | JANUARY 19th, 2PM
There should be some happy travelers later Thursday afternoon, as WSDOT reported they should have eastbound I-90 at North Bend exit 34 reopened around 4PM. WSDOT says westbound lanes at Ellensburg exit 106 should hopefully reopen later Thursday evening.
“Conditions on I-90 have improved enough to allow our maintenance crews to start clean-up efforts on Snoqualmie Pass and the highway. This includes clearing dozens of trees that fell onto eastbound lanes as well as clearing ice, snow and other debris.
We are hoping to get the eastbound lanes open Thursday afternoon and that time we’ll evaluate the westbound lanes to determine if we can reopen them later this evening.
Excavators and loaders will be used to break up and push the 20 to 30 downed trees in the eastbound lanes. We will also need to take down about 20 to 30 trees in the westbound lanes that have heavy ice build-up. We also did avalanche control west of the summit this morning to remove unstable snow.”
Traffic could be congested in the North Bend area, January 18, 2017 as drivers deal with an all-day/all-night closure of Snoqualmie Pass.
A long night for drivers trying to get over Snoqualmie Pass turned into an impending long day as WSDOT assessed and then determined crews could not safely reopen a 70-mile stretch of I-90 over the pass until at least Thursday, January 19th.
Overnight, January 17th, eastbound I-90 was closed at exit 34 near North Bend and westbound was closed at milepost 106 near Ellensburg after wind, snow, sleet and freezing rain wreaked havoc on the roadway – causing snow slides, bringing down trees and causing multiple accidents.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Brian Moore stated via Twitter that they responded to 67 collisions overnight. Early Wednesday, January 18th WSDOT crews began assessing slope stability at the pass – and then began working to clear snow, trees and debris from the roadway.
What was discovered, according to WSDOT, were a number of downed (and ice coated) trees between mileposts 40 and 50, along with snow slides near milepost 50. WSDOT stated the slides weren’t really avalanches, but described them as powdery slides across the roadway. Many ice coated trees lining the freeway were also reported to be close to falling, making it too dangerous for crews.
The decision was made around 9:30AM not to reopen the pass. Snow and freezing rain were expected to continue all day, with an Ice Storm warning issued for the area.
According to WSDOT, “Conditions are such that it is not safe in some areas for crews to do the work necessary to open the roadway. Several trees, drifting snow and other debris are blocking the road in several locations. Crews will continue to monitor conditions and begin work when safe to do so.”
WSDOT said crews will reassess conditions Thursday morning and have a new timeline for reopening the freeway.