The North Cascades Highway will open later than usual this year because of a massive amount of snow.
State Route 20 typically opens to drivers about the first weekend in May. This year, officials estimate it could be as late as June.
The latest reopening to date is June 14, 1974.
“We’ve only been closed through Memorial Day once in 40 years, but it could happen this year,” said Don Becker, a maintenance supervisor for the state Department of Transportation.
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Crews will start clearing the highway April 10, nearly a month later than the typical mid-March date. Continued iffy weather, snow slides and avalanche chutes have made it dangerous to start work.
It takes four to six weeks to clear the highway in a normal year. This year, it could take up to eight weeks.
Workers checked the highway March 16 and found 25 feet of snow covering some areas of Route 20, especially below four of the 11 avalanche chutes on Cutthroat Ridge.
The three main chutes below Liberty Bell Mountain were full with 35 to 45 feet of snow accumulated on the highway below.
Once crews start clearing the highway, nobody — even skiers and bicyclists — is allowed beyond the closure gates while work is done Mondays through Thursdays.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653