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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Chinook Pass may open early

Associated Press

YAKIMA – Chinook Pass on state Highway 410 east of Mount Rainier National Park could open as early as April 1.

That would break a record for the earliest opening of the 5,430-foot pass, which closed for winter Dec. 7. The current record is April 6, 1973.

Work crews only needed 16 hours on March 9 to carve a path through the snow and ice accumulated on the 16.5-mile stretch of highway. The job usually requires several weeks of 10-hour days, said Mike Westbay, state Department of Transportation regional spokesman.

A small section of the pass about 3 miles east of the summit was whittled down to one lane by a washout sometime this winter.

But traffic could be passing through eight weeks ahead of the normal late-May opening, Westbay said. The April 1 target date is the earliest a National Park ranger can be on duty in the area.

Westbay cautioned that a heavy snowfall could change plans. Once the pass does open, drivers should be prepared for winter driving conditions that can arrive unexpectedly as late as May, he said.

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