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Chinook Pass will open one week early, beginning Friday

Planning a trip east for the summer? Crews with the Washington state Department of Transportation are working to open the Chinook Pass on Friday about a week earlier than normal, according to Kelvin Schipper of the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce.

For half the year, wet and cold weather keep the section of state Route 410 east of of Enumclaw closed. During this period, travelers to the Tri-Cities area, Idaho or beyond must go north to Renton or south to Centralia before they can reach an accessible highway.

But the summer months make travel on the Pass safe, opening up a direct route to destinations such as Mt. Rainier National Park.

According to a Department of Transportation news release, crews have spent the past five weeks clearing snow approximately 20 feet deep from the roadway sections of the high-altitude geography.

"Clearing efforts went pretty smooth and we didn't run into any big challenges from the snowpack," department avalanche specialist John Stimberis said.

The Pass is typically closed in late November of each year, due to hazardous driving conditions and avalanche risk resulting from seasonal snowfall. In 2012, the Pass closed slightly early, on Nov. 12.

The department warned drivers that the road can still be subject to winter driving conditions, due to the more than 5,000 feet of elevation, and hazards from loose rock or other debris.

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