Photos courtesy of Pat Leigh Sherrie Krown and her dog Bennie visit with the driver of the blower while he waits for the plow to move some snow on Highway 20.

Photos courtesy of Pat Leigh

Sherrie Krown and her dog Bennie visit with the driver of the blower while he waits for the plow to move some snow on Highway 20.

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews have begun the annual ritual of clearing snow from the North Cascades Highway.

Work on Highway 20 from the west side started Thursday (March 17), WSDOT said, and work from the east side (the Methow Valley) began on Monday (March 21) at Early Winters, clearing the 7 miles to the Silver Star Gate.

“Based on the start date and conditions, crews are optimistic that State Route 20 could be open in six weeks. Progress on the annual reopening effort remains weather-dependent,” WSDOT spokesman Jeff Adamson said in a press release.

Last Thursday (March 17), the total snow at the Washington Pass summit was about 10 feet deep, Adamson said.

The North Cascades have had a more typical snowpack than last year, Adamson said. “However, in some spots debris on the road is deeper than seen in years,” he said. “In addition, the usual spring avalanche cycle has not yet taken place. When that snow does slide, it can affect the clearing effort, especially below Liberty Bell Mountain, where the avalanche chute starting zones are at 7,000 feet (2,000 feet above the roadway).”

The highway was closed for the winter on Nov. 16, 2015. Last year the highway opened very early, on April 3.