2-12-19: Havoc in Morton

I drove some in the Lower Lewis R Falls area, getting as close as to the falls as I could. Was not able to find any good photos, so I turned back, went up I-5, then East toward Morton, hoping to get to Ashford and Mt Ranier NP. The skies are forecast to clear tonight, and I wanted to get some shots at Copper Creek and Mt Rainier NP with the heavy layer of snow and a blue sky. I knew that once the sun comes out, the snow on the trees melts quickly.

My route would take me through Morton, a small town 30 miles west of Ashford. The plan was to have lunch in Morton or at the Copper Creek Inn, and spend the night at the Nisqually Lodge in Ashford.

My first clue that something was wrong was no cell signal as Morton came into view. I was very low on gas, having passed stations in favor of the lower price in Morton. I started to turn into the station, but it was obviously a big mess. There was 3′ of snow everywhere, and piled higher in places. The station would have been difficult to impossible to pull into because of troubled vehicles everywhere and snow that had not been cleared. It became obvious that the pumps were not being used.  Lunch was not available either, of course.  (The photo below shows the gas station and Subway I had planned to refuel at.)

About halfway thru town I asked a pedestrian, and he confirmed that there was no power in the town (of 1126 people). So, I drove on thru, thinking I might get gas in Ashford. At the edge of town I stopped and talked to a man driving toward town. He said that there were some big trees that had the road blocked ahead, and that the whole county was without power. I wanted to go to the Nisqually Lodge, hoping maybe I could stay there at a discount even without power (it would be more comfortable than my camper shell), but was unsure if my chainsaw was big enough for the trees. “Big trees” can be quite large here. The man convinced me that it was not possible to drive to Ashford today.

Took this photo 4 days later (Feb 16). Much of the snow had melted or been cleared:

I found this news article later in the evening: http://www.chronline.com/crime/updated-county-declares-state-of-emergency-east-county-without-power/article_397844d8-2f26-11e9-bfd5-5f358ff2dd21.html

Here’s an excerpt from the above article:
Meanwhile, state Route 7 was closed between Morton and Elbe as conditions stranded motorists in deep snow and ice. The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that the road would remain closed overnight as crews worked to reestablish safe travel. Mansfield said that state crews and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office were working to rescue about 50 stranded motorists from the route.”  Route 7 from Morton to Elbe was the only way to get where I wanted to go.

I got a fair amount of info from truckers using the CB radio – not anything particularly valuable, though. I think a ham radio could have been a big help. I may have been able to get more details about road conditions and power outages with it.

The Cascade Mountains run north and south the length of the state of Washington, effectively dividing the state.  There are five mountain passes that connect the east and west portions of the state  (that I know of), three of which are typically closed in Winter.  I-90 was closed today,  leaving Hwy 12 through White Pass as  the only available east-west route through the mountains (and Hwy 12 is only 2 lanes).

It was an interesting drive thru the pass: deep, packed snow/ice, miles of hard wash-board, among hundreds of18 wheelers. Nothing exciting, just had to stay on top of things. One truck had lost momentum and could not get going again: stuck in the east-bound drive lane between tight curves. I heard him talking on the radio, but there was no cell service in the area.

Yakima (107 miles east of Morton) was not affected by the power outage, so I found a hotel room there.

Planning on going to Pullman in the morning, and would still like to go back to Rainer, with all that heavy snow and now clearing skies, but I doubt if the roads will be cleared, and it is almost certain that the park will be closed. So, maybe I’ll try again in a few days. I have seen sunny days at Mt Rainier, but never right after a snow: there was always heavy winds and/or sun that knocked the snow off the trees before I could get there for photos.

I did not take a single photo today. In retrospect, I should have at least documented the havoc I witnessed in Morton and on Hwy 12, thru White Pass.  But it was an interesting and fun day, nonetheless!

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