Flood, landslides strand 65 hikers in Cascades, close Highway 20
Weekend thunderstorms led to floods that trapped 65 hikers overnight in North Cascades National Park and mudslides that buried parts of Highway 20 under dirt and rocks.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Heavy thunderstorms over the weekend caused a washout that trapped hikers in North Cascades National Park and generated several landslides that buried parts of Highway 20, closing it indefinitely.
Sixty-five hikers were stranded with their vehicles overnight Sunday in the national park when the washout took out part of the road that is the only access to the Cascade Pass Trailhead.
Though helicopters brought the hikers food and water, and rangers were able to alert their families about the situation, the hikers were stuck in the park until late Monday afternoon while maintenance workers dumped truckloads of gravel filler into a culvert to create a passageway out for them and their vehicles.
The hikers were able to cross the culvert Monday night, after being stranded for nearly 24 hours, said Rosemary Seifried, supervisor at Marblemount Wilderness Information Center.
One hiker said when she first saw the size of the washout, she thought her car would be stranded for months. But she praised the “fantastic” park employees who put together a pathway, allowing her and others to drive out before another set of storms predicted Monday night.
“They discussed taking us out via chopper or a zip line thing, but they managed to put in a temporary road and we were able to drive out at around 5:00,” she said in an email to The Seattle Times.
“There was concern that there were more storms in the forecast for this evening, and that would have probably been a deal breaker for getting out safely,” she wrote.
The water from the storm had flooded the culvert at the point where Cascade River Road and Boston Creek intersect, 1.5 miles below the Cascade Pass Trailhead.
It wasn’t the first time this road has flooded, Seifried said. Floods closed the road in 2006 and 2009.
Seifried said Cascade Pass is “people’s favorite hike in the park,” and the road closure could last through the summer hiking season.
The road follows the Cascade River eastward, branching off from Highway 20 near Marblemount, Skagit County, and winds 23 miles to the trailhead. Because of the flooded culvert, the road is closed to the public at the park boundary at Milepost 18 until further notice.
The same storm that stranded the hikers also caused eight landslides that buried parts of Highway 20 — one of which piled dirt and rocks 25 feet high across the pavement — closing the road west of Rainy Pass.
The slides hit a 6-mile stretch of road just west of the pass, said Jeff Adamson, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The biggest slide was about a quarter-mile long, he said. Altogether, there’s so much debris that outside contractors are being hired to help clear the mess.
Mud and water are still coming off the steep slopes, Adamson said Monday, a fact that has hampered efforts by geotechnical engineers and maintenance experts to check stability and estimate when the highway can be reopened.
No one was reported injured in the slides or the washout.
The highway was closed when the slides began late Saturday. The slides continued Sunday.
Rain and hailstorms that swept through the highway’s almost mile-high Rainy Pass area on the weekend touched off the slides between mileposts 147 and 153.
Travelers still can get to the Methow Valley by crossing the Cascades on Interstate 90 or Highway 2, then looping around via highways 97 and 20. From the Methow Valley, Adamson said, drivers can go as far as Rainy Pass, giving them access to trails on the east side of the closure.
Colin Campbell: 206-464-2033 or email@example.com. On Twitter, @cmcampbell6