Snoqualmie Pass may be unsafe

by Jamie Soukup
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER

The drive from Seattle to Whitman College under normal conditions typically takes around five hours, driving the speed limit. But many students were not so lucky on their trips back to school after Thanksgiving Break. The snowstorm in Snoqualmie Pass caused considerable trouble for those heading eastbound back to school.

Those who headed back to school on Saturday, Nov. 25 met with little trouble, but those who attempted returns on Sunday faced less than desirable conditions.

Some who left early on Sunday were fortunate enough to miss a snow-covered road. Junior Kari Berkas left at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, and said that although the roads were clear, tire chains were still required of all vehicles. “The traffic was bumper-to-bumper,” said Berkas. It took her approximately two hours to make it through the pass; in ideal conditions, the drive through the pass is estimated as lasting 15 minutes.

Many of those returning to campus later on Sunday from Seattle were those with tickets for the Whitman charter bus. The two buses were delayed an hour and a half, due to the buses’ difficulties in crossing the pass westbound.

“The pass was just wretched,” said first-year Claire Lueneburg, a rider of the charter bus. “There were lots of cars that had skidded off the road. It freaked me out.”

The buses were scheduled to arrive at campus around 5:30 to 6 p.m. They finally arrived at 10:30 p.m.

“It was frustrating because we weren’t on time, but there was just nothing that anybody could have done,” said Lueneburg.

First-year Jordan Clark, the driver of a car heading back to Whitman from Seattle, said, “I was a little bit frustrated because I, of course, left my core reading until that night.”

Some things to keep in mind for Winter Break:

Check the 10-day forecast for Snoqualmie Pass at http://www.weather.com to see if one day is particularly better than another.
Make sure to have tire chains, an ice scraper, a small shovel and a brush in your car.

Keep snow boots and warm jacket in your car in case you need to leave the vehicle.

Bring cash, especially if you are driving alone or have never put tire chains on before. There are often small companies who will install your tire chains for you for $25 and remove them after the pass for $10.

Fill up on gas before departing as usual, but when heading westbound to Seattle, fill up again before reaching the pass (in Cle Elum, for example). Then, if you are stuck in traffic in the pass, you can keep the car running and the heat on high without having to worry about running out of fuel.

If you are stuck in traffic when it is snowing heavily, it may be necessary to leave the car and shovel snow from the tailpipe; if snow is blocking it, carbon dioxide can back up into the car, making you sick—or worse.

If driving through Snoqualmie Pass is completely undesirable, taking Interstate-84 to Portland and then rerouting to Seattle is often a less stressful and safer option.

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