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Video: Man recalls avalanche scare

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TODAY contributor
updated 1/31/2008 9:02:10 AM ET 2008-01-31T14:02:10

To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first, William Shakespeare once wrote. But he never penned anything about the timing of a rapid descent.

Alex and Margaret Walker might be able to weigh in on the subject, however. The Washington State couple was driving along Interstate 90 on Wednesday, only to find a wall of snow steamrolling off a rock wall and right for their vehicle.

Alex Walker told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Thursday that he sped up to pass the oncoming avalanche, but didn’t quite make it.

It could have been far worse, however.

“We were right at the end of it,” Walker said. “If we had been a second faster, we would have missed it. If we had been two seconds slower, we would have been buried under 30 feet of it.”

The Walkers were coming from their condo at the Alpental Ski Resort when they saw the massive cloud of snow approaching. A former volunteer ski patrol member, Alex Walker knew instantly what it was.

“I tried to steer away from it and get through it — and almost made it,” he said.

The pair and occupants of another vehicle were buried up to their windows along the Snoqualmie Pass. Passengers in both cars, all uninjured, were able to free themselves and call 911.

“Our new friend, state trooper Doug Williams, got up there in about 10 minutes and loaded us up in his car just to get us out of that zone until they knew the snow had stabilized,” Walker added.

The Washington Department of Transportation measured the snow slide at 400 feet long by 30 feet deep, in spots.

The pass, about 50 miles east of Seattle, is traveled by 27,000 vehicles on a typical weekday. Nine people have died in avalanches in the state this winter and continued heavy snowfall was forecast for today. Schools in Spokane and surrounding Eastern Washington were closed for a third consecutive day on Wednesday due to heavy snow and ice.

Since Monday, snowfall at Snoqualmie Pass had totaled three feet. It was the second reported avalanche to hit I-90 in two days, although Walker was still shocked to see it.

“This was an anomaly,” he told Vieira. “Snow hasn’t come off that side of the canyon, at least not in my memory — and I’ve been around there for 30 years.”

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