STEVENS PASS - Stevens Pass received its first snowfall of the autumn season early Wednesday.
The overnight dusting ironically coincided with an annual multi-agency meeting regarding wintertime operations and preparedness over Stevens Pass.
This year’s gathering included members of the Washington State Patrol (WSP), Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the U.S. Forest Service and the Stevens Pass Mountain Resort.
WSDOT spokesperson Jeff Adamson, who was at the meeting, tells iFIBER ONE News there aren’t many changes planned for the coming season with relation to staffing numbers and hours or equipment fleets. He did indicate that the department’s avalanche control crews will be getting more directly involved in managing traffic flows over the pass during their operations when necessary and that there might be a call for earlier chain requirements this winter when conditions warrant.
WSP Trooper John Bryant was also in attendance and says driving too fast for conditions remains at the top of the list for problems the patrol is encountering on a regular basis over Stevens Pass during the winter months, and that parking on the sides of U.S. Highway 2 also continues to be a seasonal concern.
Bryant explained that even though the pass has only received a skift of snow thus far, temperatures have been dropping below freezing on a nightly basis for several days now and that has caused the roadway to slicken due to freezing and frosting. He also said the shoulders of the highway are very susceptible to icing and drivers should always keep this in mind, regardless of what conditions within the white lines are like at any given time.
Attendees at the meeting were also briefed on the presence of a new towing company out of Monitor who plans to be heavily involved with assisting troubled motorists over the pass this winter.
The new ownership of Stevens Pass Mountain Resort offered to assist the agencies in attendance wherever possible and praised them for their continued efforts to improve safety and efficiency for those traveling to and from the resort. Trooper Bryant also said the resort is planning to privately contract with WSP troopers for several extra patrols this winter.
Both Bryant and Adamson indicate that the abundance of electronic signage on both sides of the pass will again be heavily utilized in the coming season and each of their respective departments expect to engage in a large degree of social media activity to keep drivers informed as well.
WSDOT avalanche control specialist Mike Stanford also reminded the attendees about publicized predictions for an El Nino winter in 2018-2019, saying that even if this pattern which typically brings warmer and wetter weather occurs, it has historically not been applicable to Stevens Pass, which has still experienced a normal or greater than average annual snowfall regardless of this phenomenon’s impact elsewhere in the state.
Trooper Bryant cautions motorists to keep in mind that conditions can change very rapidly over any mountain pass and that the weather and road conditions only a few miles away from Stevens Pass can sometimes be very different from what drivers might encounter there. He also reminded motorists that studded tires are not legal for vehicles in Washington until Nov. 1.
Adamson says the WSDOT is looking for anyone with a current CDL certification who is interested in seasonal work to contact the department about opportunities to drive a snowplow this winter.