NW passes, other roads shut due to snow, slides, flooding
The latest winter storm to hit the Pacific Northwest brought flood warnings, a halt to travel across the mountains, school closures and icy roads Thursday.
The major route across Washington's Cascade mountains — Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass — was closed Thursday due to high avalanche danger, heavy snow and low visibility. Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, White Pass on U.S. 12 and Blewett Pass on U.S. 97 were also closed Thursday.
Transportation officials announced Thursday evening that all four passes "will likely remain closed until Sunday."
"Conditions are too dangerous for crews to be in the pass areas," DOT officials said. "Snow and debris continue to slide onto the highways. Crews are working in areas where it is safe to plow, clear catch basins and do other work to have those areas ready when we can reopen."
It’s unusual — and maybe unprecedented — to have all four passes close simultaneously for more than a few hours, The Seattle Times reported.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma said exporters from eastern Washington and beyond are not able to get their cargo to the docks.
Puget Sound Energy said Thursday that crews were responding to power outages in mountain pass regions because of heavy snow weighing down trees and branches and that the communities of Hyak, Easton, Greenwater and Skykomish were especially hard hit.
Heavy rain and snowmelt additionally caused flooding concerns in western Washington and Oregon as the latest atmospheric river moved into the region. Flood advisories were in place Thursday and in some places through Saturday.
In Centralia, south of Olympia, cars on Thursday evening were driving through water over the road on some streets. Residents in that area near the Chehalis River were told to prepare to evacuate because of expected major flooding starting Thursday afternoon. A flooding shelter opened Thursday at Centralia Middle School.
BNSF Railway reported a landslide south of Centralia that prompted a 48-hour stoppage of Amtrak train service between Portland and Seattle.
Major flooding was also expected along sections of the Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers in Lewis and Thurston counties, the National Weather Service warned. Mason County was urging residents Thursday in the Skokomish Valley area to either evacuate or shelter-in-place for several days as flooding and road closures were expected.
After days of rain and snow in Oregon, a Thursday morning slide in the Columbia River Gorge forced the closure of Interstate 84 in both directions between exit 17 in Troutdale, Oregon, and exit 62 in Hood River, Oregon.
The westbound interstate later reopened, but the eastbound lanes remained shut from Troutdale to Cascade Locks Thursday evening with no estimated reopening time set.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office warned that more debris flows in the gorge were possible and residents in landslide-prone areas should be aware of the potential danger.
“Active land movement is life threatening and may continue throughout this current weather system," the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
In Eastern Oregon, OR 334 was closed Thursday by heavily drifting snow.
In Central Washington, the National Weather Service said Yakima could get 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) of snow through 4 p.m. Friday, Ellensburg may see up to a foot.
Steve Bodnar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane, said Wenatchee could receive 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow Thursday, with nearby Leavenworth receiving 22.5 inches (57.2 centimeters).
At least 4 inches of snow fell early Thursday in Spokane, and the snow had turned to light freezing rain by late Thursday afternoon, the Weather Service said.
Numerous school districts in Spokane County and other counties around the state canceled classes Thursday, while others delayed the start of classes.
“If you don’t have to go to work or you don’t have to be out on the roads, try not to be,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Ryan Senger in Spokane.
KNKX staff contributed to this report.