CHINOOK PASS – Weather conditions are rapidly deteriorating on Chinook (State Route 410) and Cayuse (State Route 123) passes, prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation to close the mountain roadways for the season at noon today, Nov. 16.
With more than five feet of snow already on Chinook, driving conditions are becoming too dangerous to keep the passes open. The passes are under a winter storm watch with up to 20 inches of snow forecast through Wednesday, Nov. 17, and continued snowfall through the weekend.
“As the snow accumulates, the avalanche danger will continue increasing dramatically,” said John Stimberis, WSDOT avalanche forecast and control specialist.
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 from SR 410 remains open.
Cayuse Pass (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 Stevens Canyon Road.
Each year WSDOT closes Chinook and Cayuse passes for the winter due to high avalanche risk and hazardous driving conditions. Both passes include numerous slide areas that pose significant danger to travelers, as well as WSDOT maintenance crews and Mount Rainier National Park staff.
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. If someone had a problem, such as sliding off the road, it could take hours or days for anyone to find them. That could be fatal in winter conditions.
For information on these and other mountain passes call 511 or visit: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes.
Visit WSDOT’s winter website for helpful driving tips: www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.