State struggles to open some mountain passes due to snow

May 6, 2012

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Fresh snow in the mountains has slightly delayed the reopening of one high mountain pass in the Washington Cascades. Highway crews are on track to reopen two other scenic cross state routes before Memorial Day.

What's slowing them down? The snowpack is deeper than average for this time of year in Washington, north Idaho and the northern Oregon Cascades.

Cayuse Pass, Chinook Pass and the North Cascades Highway close for the season each winter. At Cayuse Pass, fresh snow expected through the weekend pushed back the reopening of the east entrance to Mount Rainier National Park to Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Washington Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Adamson says the North Cascades Highway could open on Thursday. Adamson says an avalanche chute dumped 60 feet of snow on the mountain highway in one place.

"That presents quite a challenge to the crews to be able to clear all of that snow off the road, empty the avalanche chutes and reopen the roads," Adamson said.

Chinook Pass as usual will be the last to reopen. That east-west route across the Cascades southeast of Mount Rainier is tentatively scheduled to be cleared by May 25th. I'm Tom Banse in Olympia.

On the Web: