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Chinook Pass opens in time for Memorial Day weekend

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Date:  Friday, May 25, 2012

Contact: Summer Derrey, WSDOT communications, 509-577-1943 (Chinook)
Kris Olsen, WSDOT communications, 206-440-4475 (Cayuse)

CHINOOK PASS –A spring snowstorm this week made the goal of clearing Chinook Pass a daunting challenge, but crews pushed their snow-clearing and avalanche-blasting skills to the max and will reopen State Route 410 over Chinook Pass, (elev. 5,430) at 12:30 p.m. today, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

Crews will reopen the eastside gate to Chinook Pass at Morse Creek, five miles east of the summit at 12:30 p.m. on Friday. At the same time, westside crews will reopen the gate at the SR 123 junction, about four miles west of the summit.

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews will patrol the highway over Memorial Day weekend during daylight hours. Snow is still in the forecast for Chinook Pass, and drivers need to be prepared for winter conditions. Watch for rocks and snow in the road.

Each year crews blast, plow and blow their way through 20 to 30 feet of snow to clear the highway. The goal is reopen Chinook Pass in time for Memorial Day weekend. Last year, due to a near record-breaking snowfall, crews opened the highway on June 17. This year, Chinook Pass had approximately 25 feet of snow, which is slightly above average. The latest reopening date was July 12, 1974.

Cayuse Pass, (elev. 4,675 ft.) on SR 123, reopened on May 8.

Chinook Pass has been closed since Nov. 11, 2011. WSDOT typically closes Chinook Pass for the winter in late November due to heavy snowfall, high avalanche risk, and hazardous driving conditions. A five-mile stretch just east of the summit is located along the steep slope of an avalanche area, which makes it too dangerous to keep open during the snowy winter months.

Chinook Pass, one of the state's highest mountain passes at 5,430 feet, serves as a scenic byway, an entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, and access to mountain cabins, seasonal campgrounds and hiking trails including the Pacific Crest Trail. Commercial vehicles are prohibited at all times.

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