Washington DOT Contends With Unstable Boulder Above Highway

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Updated Jan 14, 2022
boulder over U.S. 12 White Pass Washington State
A boulder the size of a three-quarter-ton pickup looms over U.S. 12 at White Pass in Washington.
Washington State DOT

Along with heavy snow and potential avalanches, the Washington State Department of Transportation has a dangerous boulder looming over a mountain highway to contend with.

The WSDOT had to close U.S. 12 at White Pass early in the week to clear snow and also debris from a rockslide, the agency reported January 10. (To watch a video of the boulder being removed, click here.)

Later that day crews had the road back open, but then had to close it again because of a rockslide and unstable slopes. The incidents also left a large boulder 125 feet above the road that looked unstable.

The rock was 12 feet by 6 feet – about the size of a three-quarter-ton pickup truck – and the DOT feared it could dislodge because of more snow, rain, and freezing and thawing temperatures on the way.

Geotechnical engineers investigated the rock and determined it needed to be removed.

“We need to bring in a crew who specializes in rock removal to safely remove it,” WSDOT tweeted January 11.

boulder washington highway closed slideU.S. 12 at White Pass in Washington is closed until this unstable boulder 125 feet above the highway can be removed.Washington State DOTThe DOT says the boulder will likely have to be broken up into smaller pieces and hauled away. A crew began working on removing it January 12. The road remains closed until safety is restored.

Along with the heavy snow, in some places as deep as 11 inches, rockslides and the boulder, WSDOT crews were also dealing this week with 200 snow slides and potential avalanches onto highways from heavy rain. One slide, along with avalanche control, led to closures of U.S. 2 Stevens Pass and Tumwater Canyon.

Crews had been performing avalanche control there with a snow blower, but later had to bring out a wheel loader as can been see in this WSDOT East video: