Cross-state travel in Washington 'almost completely impossible' as snow closes all Cascade passes

Snoqualmie Pass (I-90), Stevens Pass (US-2), White Pass (US-12) and Blewett Pass (US-97) all shut down on Thursday morning due to heavy snow and extreme conditions.

HYAK, Wash. -- Getting across the Cascades in Washington this week has progressed from difficult to nearly impossible as heavy snows and dangerous conditions have forced the closure of all primary east-west pass routes; a closure that may last into the weekend.

Snoqualmie Pass (I-90), Stevens Pass (US-2), White Pass (US-12) and Blewett Pass (US-97) all shut down on Thursday morning due to heavy snow and extreme conditions, making it too dangerous for crews to be in the mountain pass areas to clear snow.

"The hazardous conditions include snow slides, trees falling, near-zero visibility," Washington State Department of Transportation officials said. In addition, avalanche danger was already high and expected to become even more dangerous as snow changes to rain and freezing rain over the next day or so.

In addition, a fail-safe backup that travels near sea level but requires a several-hour detour into Oregon through the Columbia River Gorge along I-84 was also closed for several hours Thursday due to mudslides. Westbound lanes reopened late Thursday afternoon but eastbound remained closed.

"This means cross-state travel is almost completely impossible," WSDOT officials said. 

GPS Navigation software like Google or Apple Maps showed some routes through remote forest roads, but the Washington State Patrol strongly warned those roads are extremely hazardous, not plowed, and with little-to-no cell service and dim prospects for rescue if you get stuck.  

MORE: Washington police urge caution against using Google, Apple Map detours onto remote forest roads

A plane ticket may be the only viable option to get across the mountains. 

What's worse, the passes are expected to remain closed until at least Friday, and likely into Saturday, severing critical shipping and travel routes for days.

WSDOT crews say even once the weather conditions improve, there will be a lot of work left including avalanche control, plowing roads and clearing fallen trees, clearing overhead freeway signs from snow and ice, and clearing drainage basins.

But crews stand ready to head back into the passes once conditions are safe to do so.

Most snow in 20 years along I-90/Snoqualmie Pass

Thursday marks the 5th consecutive day with heavy snows at Snoqualmie Pass along I-90. Each of the past four days have recorded at least a foot of snow at the pass. 

PHOTOS: Snow piles up at levels not seen in decades at Washington's Snoqualmie Pass

Their seasonal total of 274 inches so far is the most recorded by this date in the past 20 years, the WSDOT said.