Update, 5 p.m. Wednesday: Utility crews made slow but good progress today, restoring power to Lake Wenatchee State Park and others. The PUD hopes to have power back on to nearly everyone by late tonight or early Thursday morning, said spokesman Steve Lachowicz.
LAKE WENATCHEE — Highway 2 over Stevens Pass reopened and power was restored to all but about 500 homes after unexpected mild temperatures lessened the falling-tree danger over the Christmas holiday.
A 35-mile stretch of the highway between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth reopened at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. It had been closed since Saturday after two snow-laden trees crashed down on cars, killing two people and injuring nine others.
Warmer than expected temperatures and wind on Monday night caused heavy snow to fall from the branches of trees that were threatening to fall onto the highway, the state Department of Transportation reported.
Without the weight of the snow, the trees were no longer a danger.
“Under normal conditions this snow-sloughing process goes on daily all winter,” DOT regional administrator Dan Sarles said in a prepared statement. “The conditions over the past four days produced a falling tree threat that we’ve not seen here before.”
Meanwhile, utility crews working for more than a week to replace power poles and lines knocked down by falling trees made progress on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, said Chelan County PUD spokesman Steve Lachowicz. Since Monday morning, power has been restored to more than 3,000 homes and businesses, including all of Plain, Chiwawa Loop Road and Shugart Flats.
About 490 PUD customers were still without power this morning, Lachowicz said. Most of the remaining outages are along the south shore and far north shore of Lake Wenatchee and the west end of Fish Lake.
Chelan County road crews were also able to plow roads and remove trees, allowing people access to and from their homes for the first time in a week. The county flew a helicopter over the area to knock snow off trees. It could be used again today.
Lachowicz said mild weather should help utility and road crews make more progress today. No significant new snow is forecasted at least through New Year’s Day, according to the National Weather Service.
Lachowicz said if people still do not have power in areas where power is back on, they should contact the PUD. He said that while the substations, poles and lines may be repaired, equipment that carries power to individual homes or businesses may have been damaged.
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152