Chinook Pass May Close After Staying Open for Near Record Length - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Chinook Pass May Close After Staying Open for Near Record Length

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YAKIMA, WA. -- Chinook Pass is closed Monday as a strong winter storm rolls into the Cascades. Once the storm passes, crews will decide if the pass is safe to reopen or if they'll shut it down for the Winter. That wouldn't be unusual but the fact that it has stayed open this long, is.

Some call it a winter wonderland. The Department of Transportation calls it dangerous and  temporarily closed Chinook Pass with one big concern in mind.

"I spoke to our avalanche expert today, he said that there's probably a hundred areas where avalanches can occur up there," Summer Derry of the Department of Transportation said.

Whistlin' Jack Lodge is the first place to stop after going through the pass. Monday they were completely empty at lunch time. But closing the pass is something they're used to.

"It's fine, it does slow our business down a little bit but we still have quite a few people that still come up, they know the roads are good," Shari Hartwell said.

Shari says they are always ready for the pass to close for the winter but this year was a little bit different. This is the first time that Chinook Pass has stayed open into December in the past 5-years. In the last 30-years its only been open in December 3 times, all of those came in the last decade."

"It appears the later closing date is due to good weather," Derry said. "So far we've had a relatively mild Winter, but who knows what's up ahead."

The Department of Transportation says that no matter where you are, now is the time to think about driving more carefully.

"Typically when we have the first storm of the year is when we have the most collisions," Derry said. "Drivers are just gearing up for winter driving."

The latest the pass has stayed open in December was the 18th. Transportation officials expect it to reopen sometime in late March.