It’s the old normal.
Chinook Pass should reopen for Memorial Day weekend after being closed for the winter. That’s the date the state Department of Transportation targets each year. Some years it’s later and some earlier.
“We’re on track for Memorial Day, but that could change as we get a little closer,” said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Summer Derrey. “They’re working through slide areas and are about 2 miles from the top, going from the east to the west.”
Last year, Highway 410 over the pass reopened on April 2, one of the earliest dates in its history, except for 1977 when it never closed. The earlier opening was the result of a diminished snowpack during a winter that recorded very little snow. But this year is more normal, with snow still 15 feet deep at the top of the pass, according to Derrey.
We’re on track for Memorial Day, but that could change as we get a little closer.
Summer Derrey, DOT spokeswoman
The 5,439-foot Chinook Pass closes every year around Thanksgiving because of high avalanche risk – it’s the most avalanche-prone pass in the state. Derrey said there are about 100 avalanche paths in the area.
Work to open the highway began the first week of April, with snow removal being conducted in two parts. A crew of four people on skis works from ridges above the highway, setting off explosives to cause snow slides away from the road. Another crew of four, driving snowplows and giant snow blowers, works down lower from east of the pass moving west.
A DOT crew from Western Washington is simultaneously working to clear the highway over Cayuse Pass and is estimated to finish that task during the first week of May. They will then continue on toward Chinook Pass, clearing from west to east, until the two teams meet.