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Wind, snow, avalanche danger close Chinook and Cayuse passes for the season
Editor's note: the following is a press release issued Monday afternoon by the state Department of Transportation.
Several feet of snowfall over the weekend sent Chinook (State Route 410) and Cayuse (State Route 123) passes into hibernation for the season. Crews temporarily closed the passes on Friday, Nov. 11, due to avalanche danger. On Monday, Nov. 14, WSDOT maintenance engineers made the call – both passes will remain closed until spring. The risk of avalanche is too great to keep the passes open.
Chinook and Cayuse passes endured a combination of snow and strong wind that left snow drifts blocking both lanes of the highways. The next major storm is forecasted for Wednesday, Nov. 16.
“There are more than 100 avalanche paths on Chinook Pass that affect the highway,” said John Stimberis, WSDOT avalanche forecast and control specialist. “We need to protect the public.”
Chinook Pass (elevation 5,430 feet) is closed from Morse Creek (five miles east of the summit) to Crystal Mountain Boulevard (eight miles northwest of the summit). Access to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort on eastbound SR 410 remains open. Cayuse Pass (SR 123) is closed within Mount Rainier National Park from the 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass summit to Stevens Canyon Road.
Each year WSDOT closes Chinook and Cayuse passes, usually in November, for the winter due to high avalanche risk and hazardous driving conditions. The combination of avalanche danger, mountainous terrain, lack of cell phone service, inclement weather and relatively few vehicles on the roads make driving these passes in the winter potentially hazardous.
WSDOT offers a number of ways to get travel information:
· View the Chinook Pass page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/Chinook
· View the Cayuse Pass page: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/cayuse
· Check out other statewide mountain passes: call 511 or visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes.
· Learn some helpful driving tips: www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.