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State DOT crews plan to reopen Chinook Pass Thursday

Crews continue to blast and plow their way through the snow-covered Cascade slopes to reopen state Route 410 over Chinook Pass by June 23.

At 10 a.m. June 23, state Department of Transportation maintenance crews will reopen the east side gate to Chinook Pass at Morse Creek, five miles east of the summit. At the same time, west side crews will reopen the gate at the SR 123 junction, about four miles west of the summit.

“This is one of the toughest clearing efforts I can recall,” said John Stimberis, avalanche forecast and control specialist for the DOT. "The snow in late April was 25 to 30 feet deep in some of the avalanche chutes, which is the deepest snowpack for this time of year since 1999.”

While June 23 is not the latest reopening date, it is among the top five; July 12, 1974, was the latest. Crews hope to reopen Chinook Pass by Memorial Day weekend every year, but more than 700 inches of snow and extreme avalanche danger slowed the effort this year. Flooding, due to heavy rains in the lowlands of SR 410, also took crews away from the reopening effort.

Nearby Cayuse Pass, (elevation 4,675 feet) on State Route 123, reopened May 26.

Chinook Pass has been closed since Nov. 16, 2010. The DOT typically closes Chinook Pass for the winter in late November due to heavy snowfall, high avalanche risk and hazardous driving conditions.

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

At 10 a.m. June 23, state Department of Transportation maintenance crews will reopen the east side gate to Chinook Pass at Morse Creek, five miles east of the summit. At the same time, west side crews will reopen the gate at the SR 123 junction, about four miles west of the summit.

“This is one of the toughest clearing efforts I can recall,” said John Stimberis, avalanche forecast and control specialist for the DOT. "The snow in late April was 25 to 30 feet deep in some of the avalanche chutes, which is the deepest snowpack for this time of year since 1999.”

While June 23 is not the latest reopening date, it is among the top five; July 12, 1974, was the latest. Crews hope to reopen Chinook Pass by Memorial Day weekend every year, but more than 700 inches of snow and extreme avalanche danger slowed the effort this year. Flooding, due to heavy rains in the lowlands of SR 410, also took crews away from the reopening effort.

Nearby Cayuse Pass, (elevation 4,675 feet) on State Route 123, reopened May 26.

Chinook Pass has been closed since Nov. 16, 2010. The DOT typically closes Chinook Pass for the winter in late November due to heavy snowfall, high avalanche risk and hazardous driving conditions.

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

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