Winter is still officially sixty days away but there’s a lot of snow heading to the mountain passes of the Cascade Mountains this week. 

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Stevens, Rainy, and Washington Passes, where up to six inches of snow could fall below 3,000 feet; a foot-and-a-half of snow could fall between 3,000 and 5,000 feet; and up to two feet of snow could fall above 5,000 feet between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

Washington Department of Transportation (DOT) spokesperson Lauren Loebsack says despite the forecast, the North Cascades Highway is not expected to close for the season due to the storm. 

“Up on the North Cascades we are still open between Newhalem and Mazama. The seasonal closure is not yet being planned or scheduled at this time. But when you do head up into the mountains to drive now, we are seeing just the beginnings of winter weather, so drivers need to plan for winter conditions.” 

Loebsack says being prepared includes the same checklist that most Washingtonians who travel the state's passes should already be familiar with. 

“First of all, how are your tires? Do you have traction tires on your car or snow tires ready to go? Are you prepared with some warm clothing in your car in the event of a breakdown or an accident? These are important things to keep in mind knowing that, particularly over the North Cascades there are few services available and no cell service.” 

The same weather system is also expected to produce five to ten inches of snow above 4,000 feet on Snoqualmie Pass, but forecasters say Blewett Pass will likely only see cold rain during the event. 

Rainy and Washington Passes typically close around November 1 annually but have seen closures as early as mid-October over the last twenty years. 

Motorists can check out a comprehensive list of winter driving tips from the DOT at their website by clicking here. 

Loebsack also recommends downloading the DOT’s mobile app to stay up to date on winter conditions.

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