Captain Ron Mead, commander of the Washington State Patrol in King County, directs traffic on the top of Snoqualmie Pass. Photo courtesy of Trooper Rick Johnson.

Captain Ron Mead, commander of the Washington State Patrol in King County, directs traffic on the top of Snoqualmie Pass. Photo courtesy of Trooper Rick Johnson.

Convoy leads Snoqualmie travelers to safety

Immense snowfall led to dicey conditions on the pass.

Numerous Washington commuters are safe now, after having traveled down from the summit of Snoqualmie Pass on a second convoy trip Wednesday, Feb. 13.

The first convoy this week happened Tuesday, Feb. 12, after travelers were stuck atop the pass when inches of snow piled down the last few days. The weather caused more than five feet of snow accumulation and created avalanche dangers, meaning travel off the mountain was prohibited.

On Monday, Feb. 11, a collision-caused fatality happened on the westbound Interstate 90, near milepost 55, according to state troopers. A semi truck had collided with a concrete jersey barrier and little details were available.

Due to the travel dangers, Washington State Patrol and the the Washington State Department of Transportation in a collaborative effort led a line of more than 200 vehicles down from the pass from milepost 52 at the summit to the nearest town, milepost 34 in North Bend.

At 3 p.m. vehicles lined up along stsate Route 906 at exit 52. Vehicles were escorted to North Bend off the hill in the eastbound lanes.

It was a trip of less than 20 miles, with drivers going slower than usual speeds, said Summer Derrey with the department of transportation. It took a little over a half hour to get off the mountain, she estimated.

Kerstin Diaz has lived on the pass for 20 years, but never has she experienced the intense snowfall in such a short time frame, she said. At her job as front desk manager at the Summit Inn, she witnessed some of the anxiety that overcame drivers snowed in on the mountain.

From about 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the hotel had no power. Because of this, Diaz couldn’t open the on-site restaurant. The gas station nearby at one point had no gas to give.

But she also witnessed a “coming together” — an event she said she hasn’t seen in many years.

“It was amazing how people were helping each other out,” she said. The snow created a “nightmare” of a parking lot, and left cars covered in ice. “Cars were in two feet of snow and there was three feet on top and around the vehicles, but everyone was helping, shoveling cars out and getting them free from the parking lot.”

Weather conditions led North Bend to issue a State of Emergency on Feb. 12. The declaration cited “severe weather” and was signed by mayor pro-tem Trevor Kostanich.

The announcement allows the city to bring in additional help and resources to respond to the winter weather, and makes the city eligible for state and federal funding that could fund the weather response.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13, pass conditions had improved, Derrey said. She described sunny skies — a stark contrast from the record-breaking snowfall experienced the last two days. A second convoy again traveled down the mountain successfully leading drivers to safety.

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