Snowstorm closes pass

Unexpected squalls of strong winds, heavy snow and hail left more than a dozen vehicles stranded on Snoqualmie Pass along Interstate 90. Some were left sideways on the highway, while others slid into the median or roadside ditches.

The pass was closed for several hours while crews worked to clear snow and ice. It was the first weather-related pass closure in the state this season.

The Washington State Patrol, working in cooperation with the state Department of Transportation, closed Snoqualmie Pass at 3:30 p.m. Sunday from Exit 47 in the west to Exit 70 in Easton, where drivers could wait out the closure or turn around. The eastbound closure was moved back to Exit 34 at Edgewick Road at 5:40 p.m. when Seattle area DOT crews arrived at the pass. The additional crews helped remove snow and ice.

Traffic opened to a single eastbound lane at 7:15 p.m. and a single westbound lane at 8 p.m. All lane restrictions lifted at 9:45 p.m.

The state's 5-1-1 Traveler Information System was down temporarily, compounding the problem.

The forecast had called for the freezing level to be at 4,000 feet, about 1,000 feet above the highway. However, a series of squalls dumped six inches of snow and pea-sized hail on the pass. The squalls also dumped snow, hail and heavy rain in the Valley.

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