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Chinook Pass closed for the season

Editor's note: The following is a press release issued Monday by the state's Department of Transportation:

The Washington State Department of Transportation closed Chinook and Cayuse passes for the season Sunday, after reviewing a snowy forecast and assessing the avalanche risk.

Due to heavy snow accumulation on the roadway, WSDOT crews temporarily closed Chinook Pass just after 7:30 a.m. Saturday. WSDOT avalanche forecasters assessed the stability of the hillside on Sunday morning and determined the avalanche risk is too great to allow traffic to safely cross Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass.

Since Friday, Chinook Pass has received more than 3 feet of snow. More snow is forecasted which will only increase the avalanche danger.

The SR 410 Chinook Pass closure points are at Morse Creek (five miles east of the summit) and at Crystal Mountain Boulevard (eight miles northwest of the summit). Access to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort from SR 410 remains open.

Additionally, WSDOT and Mount Rainier National Park staff agreed to close SR 123 (Cayuse Pass) for the season. SR 123 is closed within Mount Rainier National Park from the 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass summit at the junction of SR 410 and SR 123 to Steven Canyon Road.

WSDOT closes each pass for the winter due to high avalanche risk and hazardous driving conditions. Both passes have numerous slide areas that pose significant danger to travelers, WSDOT maintenance crews and park staff.

The combination of avalanche danger, mountainous terrain, lack of cell phone service, inclement weather, and the low number of vehicles, make driving these passes in the winter a potentially hazardous endeavor. If someone had a problem, such as going off the road, it could be many hours, or days, before anyone could find them, which could be fatal in winter conditions.

For information on these and other mountain passes call 511 or visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/

Helpful tips on winter weather driving can be found at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/

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