Editor's Note: The following is an update issued by the Washington State Department of Transportation this week.
MOUNT RAINIER – With snow blowers and a bulldozer working together, the annual State Route 410 clearing effort is under way. From the northwest entry to Mount Rainier National Park to the Cayuse Pass summit (elev. 4,675 ft.), it’s a race against nature to open State Route 410 in time for early spring and summer travel.
Washington State Department of Transportation crews face snow and debris more than 12 feet deep in places. With six miles cleared, they’re now about two and a half miles west of the summit at Cayuse Pass. New storms are still dropping snow on previously cleared sections, but crews can quickly clear it away as they advance higher up the highway. To open Cayuse Pass by mid-April, they can’t afford the luxury of waiting for storms to pass.
Crews from the east side of the state will begin clearing SR 410 Chinook Pass (elev. 5,430 ft.) in mid-April, a few weeks later than Cayuse due to the higher elevation and increased snowfall. Additionally, the snow removal equipment they use is still needed for several more weeks on Snoqualmie Pass. They plan to reopen Chinook Pass before Memorial Day weekend, although that depends on the weather.
After clearing SR 410 to Cayuse Pass, maintenance crews from Greenwater will clear SR 123 from the summit down to US 12. They will work their way up SR 410 to Chinook Pass to meet the crew from Rimrock. At either pass, weather can change quickly and heavy snowstorms can halt their progress.
Every year, WSDOT closes Cayuse and Chinook passes due to high avalanche risk and hazardous conditions. Numerous slide areas on both passes pose significant danger to WSDOT maintenance crews, Mount Rainier National Park staff and backcountry adventure seekers.
Track the crews' progress at the WSDOT Flickr page.
For information on SR 123 Cayuse Pass, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/cayuse
For information on SR 410 Chinook Pass, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/chinook/